Cork v Clare U20 preview: First Munster final clash since 2014 for Rebels and Banner

TUS Gaelic Grounds hosts what should be a cracking game on Monday night
Cork v Clare U20 preview: First Munster final clash since 2014 for Rebels and Banner

Cork's Ross O'Sullivan and Ian McNamara of Clare chase the sliothar in the Munster U20HC game at Cusack Park in Ennis in April. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Cork have made two changes for tonight’s Munster U20HC final against Clare at TUS Gaelic Grounds (7.30pm).

With Cillian Tobin – who began at midfield in the last round-robin game against Limerick a fortnight ago – injured, Seán Daly returns to Ben O’Connor’s side after he missed the victory over the Shannonsiders.

The Randal Óg man is selected at right corner-back, where he started the Rebels’ first three games, with Mark Howell shifting to numbers 7 while captain Michael Mullins now partners Tadhg O’Connell at centrefield. The other alteration is in attack as Ross O’Sullivan is named at left corner-forward with his namesake Adam dropping to the bench.

Eoin Downey, who played in Cork’s wins over Waterford, Tipperary and Clare before being left out against Limerick due to senior commitments, is again absent as his inclusion would render him ineligible for the Clare-Cork senior outing at Cusack Park next Sunday. The centre-back spot is once again given to Ben O’Connor of St Finbarr’s.

When the counties met in Ennis on April 19, Cork won by 1-24 to 0-22 to record their third straight win – enough to secure a place in the Munster final with a game to spare thanks to Tipperary’s win over Limerick two nights later.

The key moment in the match was Ben Cunningham’s goal in the 55th minute, coming at a time when Cork led by 0-20 to 0-19 after the sides had been neck and neck throughout the second half. The St Finbarr’s man finished with 1-6 while Diarmuid Healy and Timmy Wilk – named as a sub tonight – each scored four points from play.

Having led by 0-7 to 0-3 in the first half, Cork found themselves trailing by 0-12 to 0-9 as the game moved into injury time before a pair of late points left the minimum in it at half-time. Players likely to lead the Clare charge are Keith Smyth, Senan Dunford and Jack O’Neill.

The Munster champions will advance to the All-Ireland final on May 27 against the winners of Wednesday night’s Leinster decider against Offaly and Wexford.

It’s the first Munster final between Cork and Clare at the U20/U21 grade since 2014, when the Banner won.

Cork’s last win over Clare in a provincial final at this age came in 1996, when Joe Deane scored 2-5 in a 3-16 to 2-7 victory. 

That team also featured Dónal Óg Cusack, John Browne, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Mickey O’Connell and captain Seánie McGrath, who would go on to play on the team that won the All-Ireland senior title in 1999.

CORK (U20HC v Clare); 

B Saunderson (Midleton); S Daly (Randal Óg), S Kingston (Ballinora), D O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), J Dwyer (Ballincollig), B O’Connor (St Finbarr’s), M Howell (Douglas); T O’Connell (Ballincollig), M Mullins (Whitechurch); W Buckley (St Finbarr’s), B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s), C Walsh (Kanturk); D Cremin (Midleton), D Healy (Lisgoold), R O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh).

Subs: P O’Sullivan (Fr O’Neills), C Smyth (Midleton), K Lyons (Ballygarvan), C Doolin (St Finbarr’s), T Wilk (Cobh), M Finn (Midleton), A O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), J Leahy (Dungourney), B Keating (Ballincollig).

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