Cork’s hopes of progress from the Munster SHC rest on having to earn a positive result away to Limerick next Sunday after they fell just short against Clare on Sunday.
A packed house of 18,659 witnessed yet another pulsating clash. Cork, trailing by eight points early in the second half, battled back to level on three occasions in the closing stages but a long-range effort from Clare wing-back Diarmuid Ryan – his fourth – proved to be the winner.
When Tony Kelly goaled from a penalty on 39 minutes, it was 2-13 to 1-8 but Cork came back well and a brilliant Patrick Horgan goal, following a lovely catch and turned from Niall O’Leary’s delivery, tied at 2-17 to 3-14.
Clare, for whom centre-back John Conlon excelled, lessened the impact of that with points from David McInerney and Shane O’Donnell but still Cork persisted and Shane Kingston combined with fellow subs Brian Hayes and Shane Barrett to level on 69.
After David Fitzgerald put Clare in front again, Horgan – who wasn’t at his best from placed balls – landed a beauty from his own 65 but Cork couldn’t push in front. Ryan scored the crucial score and the Cusack Park faithful, with another final to look forward, bounced along at the end to Gala’s Freed From Desire. For Cork, it all boils down to next Sunday in TUS Gaelic Grounds.
While Cork conceded the game’s first two points – with a shout for a penalty for a Rory Hayes challenge on Patrick Horgan under a high ball going unheeded – they hit their stride.
Two from Horgan and one by Séamus Harnedy had them in front and, while Clare responded through David Fitzgerald and Tony Kelly, the Rebels enjoyed their most fruitful period.
Robert Downey was prominent at wing-back with Brian Roche a model of tireless endeavour at midfield. Darragh Fitzgibbon levelled at 0-4 each after a great Declan Dalton catch from a puckout before a Roche turnover allowed Horgan to set up the onrushing Conor Cahalane.
He sent his shot past Eibhear Quilligan and there was another goal chance immediate after that, with Séamus Harnedy drawing a save from the Clare goalkeeper.
Peter Duggan, the focal point of the Clare attack, pulled one back for them but Harnedy, set up by Downey, and Horgan with a free left it 1-6 to 0-5 after 16 minutes. However, from that point until half-time, Cork were outscored by 1-8 to 0-2.
The Clare goal came just before the half-hour mark, by which stage they had drawn level at 0-10 to 1-7. A good delivery from Diarmuid Ryan towards Duggan broke kindly for Kelly to run on to and his delicate flick sent the ball beyond Patrick Collins. Though Roche had an immediate reply for Cork, Clare had the final three points of the half through Kelly and defenders Séadna Morey – just on for the injured Conor Cleary – and Ryan for a 1-13 to 1-8 advantage.
The hope at half-time was for a strong response at the outset of the second half but instead the deficit was allowed to increase to eight points. A low Kelly ball ran through to Shane O’Donnell and he would surely have netted but for a foul by Ciarán Joyce and referee Johnny Murphy awarded a penalty and a yellow card.
Kelly made no mistake from the 20m line, sending Collins the wrong way, though Fitzgibbon did have a point immediately after. Cork might have ended generated another goal chance as Dalton turned over the puckout but, not for the first time, handling let Cork down.
They continued to press, though. Harnedy was desperately unlucky to bat just wide from a Lehane delivery on 43 but, after Ryan Taylor’s second point made it 2-14 to 1-10 on 44, Cork found a way back. After a well-worked move, Darragh Fitzgibbon found Shane Kingston, who had just been introduced, and he was unfairly crowded out, with another penalty awarded.
While Patrick Horgan’s shot was straight at Quilligan, Dalton was following up to fire the loose ball home. Cork had four of the next six points, including one from full-back Damien Cahalane, to leave it 2-16 to 2-14 with 15 minutes left.
Clare moved three ahead again before Horgan’s goal levelled. There were twists and turns from there to the end, but Clare emerged the ones still standing.
Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 2-4 (1-0 penalty), D Ryan 0-4, A McCarthy 0-3 (0-2f), D McInerney, D Fitzgerald, R Taylor, S O’Donnell 0-2 each, P Duggan, M Rodgers, S Morey 0-1.
Cork: P Horgan 1-9 (0-5f), D Dalton 1-1, C Cahalane 1-0, B Roche, D Fitzgibbon, S Harnedy 0-2 each, S Kingston, D Cahalane 0-1 each.
CLARE: E Quilligan; A Hogan, C Cleary, R Hayes; D Ryan, J Conlon, D McInerney; R Taylor, C Malone; D Fitzgerald, T Kelly, S O’Donnell; P Duggan, M Rodgers, A McCarthy.
Subs: S Morey for Cleary (34, injured), I Galvin for Rodgers (47), A Shanagher for McCarthy (53), S Meehan for Galvin (68).
CORK: P Collins; N O’Leary, S O’Donoghue, D Cahalane; T O’Connell, C Joyce, R Downey; B Roche, L Meade; D Dalton, D Fitzgibbon, C Cahalane; P Horgan, S Harnedy, C Lehane.
Subs: G Millerick for O’Connell (38-41, temporary), S Kingston for Lehane (43), S Barrett for Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).