Cork U20 hurlers capture Munster title with great comeback against Clare

Down four points in the 47th minute, Ben O'Connor's Rebels rallied to reach the All-Ireland final for the fifth time since 2018
Cork U20 hurlers capture Munster title with great comeback against Clare

The Cork team celebrate with the Munster U20 trophy. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Cork 1-23 Clare 1-21

A superb final-quarter comeback earned Cork a third Munster U20HC title in four years as they came with a surge to overcome Clare at TUS Gaelic Grounds on Monday night.

When Jack O’Neill pointed for Clare in the 47th minute, the Banner led by four, 1-19 to 1-15, but Cork outscored them by eight points to two for the remainder. 

Cork goalkeeper Brion Saunderson with David Kennedy and Keith Smyth of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Cork goalkeeper Brion Saunderson with David Kennedy and Keith Smyth of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

After William Buckley and Ben Cunningham had scored to cut the gap to two, Keith Smyth replied with his tenth of the night for Clare, but Ben O’Connor’s side had begun to build momentum.

Sub Jack Leahy and Cunningham left a point in it before captain Micheál Mullins – who had goaled in the first half – had half a chance of another as he drove towards goal but Clare’s Ian MacNamara made an excellent intervention for the third time in the game.

It couldn’t disrupt the Cork tide though and Cunningham levelled with a free from his own 65 before Diarmuid Healy landed his third point. Smyth did give Clare hope with what proved to be his final point but they couldn’t engineer a chance to force extra time.

When a sideline cut dropped towards the Cork goal, Darragh O’Sullivan claimed possession and cleverly fed Leahy, whose ball to Ross O’Sullivan yielded a free which Cunningham sent over to guarantee the win. 

Cork's Ben O'Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Cork's Ben O'Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Cork are now in the All-Ireland final on May 27 and they await the winners of Wednesday night’s Leinster final between Offaly and Wexford.

Before a crowd of 5,402, Cork led by 1-11 to 0-10 at half-time, seizing control with a five-point burst between the seventh and 12th minutes to put themselves in control.

Having falling 0-4 to 0-2 behind in the early stages, they were inspired by a fine individual point from William Buckley before Ross O’Sullivan and Colin Walsh had them in front with good scores, set up by Michael Mullins and Ben O’Connor respectively.

They might have even had a goal only for Ben Cunningham to fire into the side-netting from a tight angle but he extended the lead with a pointed free and Colin Walsh made it 1-7 to 0-4.

Corner-forward David Cremin was playing in a roving role, giving Cork an extra body in a midfield sector where Seán Daly was prominent early on and, while Oisín O’Donnell pulled a point back for Clare, Cork solidified their advantage with a 13th-minute goal.

The Cork team stand for the national anthem. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
The Cork team stand for the national anthem. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

It was a move where the ball was worked well out of defence through Darragh O’Sullivan and Shane Kingston, setting captain Micheál Mullins away down the right flank. With no challenge coming, he carried and carried, feinted to handpass and then drilled a shot home.

While Keith Smyth’s frees kept Clare in touch, Cork had opportunities for more goals. With Clare not properly set, Ben Cunningham went for the jugular on a 20m free but goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan saved, while on 26 minute Ben O’Connor’s run ended with him testing the custodian and Colin Walsh’s follow-up brilliantly kept out by Ian MacNamara.

Ben Cunningham slotted over the 65 that resulted to make it 1-11 to 0-9 but Clare finished the half with points from Seán Rynne and O’Donnell to leave it a four-point game at half-time.

Smyth and O’Donnell scored on the resumption to cut the lead to two and, though Tadhg O’Connell had a Cork point in response, Rynne’s goal drew Clare level before Patrick Crotty had them in front, 1-13 to 1-12, for the first time since the third minute.

Cork manager Ben O'Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Cork manager Ben O'Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

For a time, it looked like they would pull away, with Smyth making it 1-18 to 1-14 on 45. However, Healy, with a wonderful catch and point, gave notice that Cork weren’t done and they were not, by a long shot.

Scorers for Cork: B Cunningham 0-9 (0-6 f, 0-1 65), T O’Connell, D Healy 0-3 each, M Mullins 1-0, C Walsh, W Buckley, R O’Sullivan 0-2 each, J Leahy, A O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Clare: K Smyth 0-11 (0-9 f), S Rynne 1-1, O O’Donnell 0-3, J O’Neill, P Crotty 0-2 each, K Hartigan, N O’Farrell 0-1 each.
CORK: B Saunderson (Midleton); D O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), S Kingston (Ballinora), M Howell (Douglas); M Mullins (Whitechurch), B O’Connor (St Finbarr’s), J Dwyer (Ballincollig); T O’Connell (Ballincollig), S Daly (Randal Óg); B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s), D Healy (Lisgoold), W Buckley (St Finbarr’s); R O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh), D Cremin (Midleton), C Walsh (Kanturk).

Subs: T Wilk (Cobh) for Daly (half-time), A O’Sullivan (Ballnhassig) for Cremin (32, injured), J Leahy (Dungourney) for Walsh (37).

CLARE: A Shanahan; J Conneally, O Cahill, I MacNamara; K Hartigan, D Lohan, O Clune; S Rynne, O O’Donnell; S Dunford, G Sheedy, P Crotty; K Smyth, D Kennedy, J O’Neill.

Subs: N O’Farrell for Sheedy (half-time), C Cleary for Kennedy (40), D Stritch for Dunford (54), J Collins for Clune (59), C Whelan for O’Donnell (60).

Referee: M Kennedy (Tipperary).

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo
The Echo - Women in Sport Awards - Logo



Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more