THIS has been the best year of the Munster championship for a long time.
The quality and intensity of the games are just unbelievable. The skill is of the highest standard, the fitness and conditioning of the teams top class.
It is a huge compliment to the managers and players that week after week they are producing classics. Entertainment value is of the highest order. I don't care where you go or what sport you look at, there is nothing in the world like a real game of hurling.
The passion on the field is outstanding and on the sidelines as well, not to mention, the supporters. Ennis had all this on Sunday.
As I said here before, the crowd are breathing down your neck, and to keep your focus and concentration levels at the highest in the middle of the battle is a challenge, and a big one at that. Also sportsmanship is of the highest order here. Big hits going in all over the place, in a very sporting manner.
Huge tribute to all players, and remember, this is only their hobby, just everything for the pure love and pride of the jersey. I know they get a lot of stick at times but you have to admire the officials, they play a big part in all of this. We do not always agree with their decisions and they take a lot of insults, but we need them!
Cork came in with a good bit of confidence, not that they ever lack any, but this was a huge pressure game.
Declan Dalton was also getting on a lot of ball but I think an injury to full-back Conor Cleary, who was not having a good day anyway on Harnedy, had to be replaced by Seadna Morey. Right away Morey improved the Clare defence with his pace and hurling. Rory Hayes and Adam Hogan got on top of Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane.
Tony Kelly was buzzing around the place, assisted by Cathal Malone and Shane O'Donnell, and Clare got into the driving seat. Mind you, Cork could have been nearer at halftime, but untypically Horgan missed a few frees, as did Aiden McCarthy for Clare.
Cork were in a great position but they did not start the second half well. Clare came out all guns blazing and with Tony Kelly giving Tommy O'Connell a hard time of it, and Shane O'Donnell doing likewise on the other wing.
I was surprised that Cork did not move O'Connell off Kelly quicker. I was also surprised O'Donoghue wasn't on Kelly instead of Niall O'Leary.
Clare took a big lead with Cork gone out of it completely. As you know in hurling everything can change so fast.
He was taken down for the penalty which brought Cork right back into the game.
Shane Barrett added a bit of pace. Brian Roche came into the play when he was moved to midfield.
The momentum was with Cork now, Clare were rattled. One thing they have in spades is character and nowhere was that more obvious than in the wing-backs, David McInerney and Diarmuid Ryan. They nailed some great points, especially Ryan, not alone with the winner but his overall display was just what Clare needed. He is some athlete to keep going like that for 76 minutes.
He was Man of the Match but not far behind him for Clare was Rory Hayes and the teenager Adam Hogan, he showed great maturity on the ball.
Along with Kelly, they were the main reasons that Clare won this game.
Cork had two of the best players on the field in Ciaran Joyce and Damian Cahalane.
When Pat Ryan is addressing his team, these are the two guys he should use as role models for this team. Both of them were not far off Man of the Match in my book.
They were the two big leaders for Cork but they need more than two to stay in this championship.