posted 20 Jun 2011, 06:41 by Unknown user
updated 20 Jun 2011, 06:45 by Denis Tuohy Agricultural Consultant
By Michael O Connor.
At last, a win at this much maligned grade for Clare hurlers and in devastating fashion. Those who follow this grade could hardly believe the ease in the Gaelic Grounds with which Clare pulled away from Cork who had lost last years All Ireland final and had dispatched Tipperary in round 1.
Clare manager for most of the last decade Kevin Kennedy called successfully on the services of former stars Tony Carmody and marquee name Niall Gilligan alongwith a number of aspiring starlets that may be involved for the coming years at under 21, intermediate and senior level. These two players just by the presence on the panel plus the availability of young guns Keane, Kelly, Golden, Fahy and Fennessy gave pace and hunger to the team. This grade have been heavily criticised by certain quarters within and outside the establishment for the apparent lack of real interest amongst those in charge. This meant little to those who decided to play for the sake of playing for the county.
A number of those playing for the intermediates have gave loyal service with little success and the real disappointing factor for both sides was that little more than 300 people were within the ground when the ball was thrown in by Shane Hourigan. It was indeed a week to remember for Niall Gilligan making a return to county colours and becoming a father for the first time and he celebrated with the all important opening goal.
Clare started the game in a very positive attacking fashion with the forwards to the fore very early on but doubts cast over the defence who conceded space and frees with regularity. Padraig Hickey opened the scoring after a smart handpass from Martin Duggan in the 3rd minute. Maurice Sexton responded with a Cork free within the minute before David Drake and Ronan Keane swopped scores after six minutes. Two well taken scores by Tony Carmody who was busy throughout the first half and Daire Keane who is not on the under 21 panel sent Clare two clear after 10 minutes action. Clare extended the lead to four points in some style courtesy of Carmody and Ronan Keane as Brian Corry and Michael O Sullivan hit back in rapid fashion with all these scores occurring in four minutes. Darren McCarthy engineered a fine block from a Niall Gilligan overhead after a long range free from Andrew Fahy. After 13 minutes Clare were shaky (0-6) to (0-5) leaders after scores from Michael O Sullivan and David Drake as Marty Regan and Alan Brigdale were having a free shaky moments without conceding goals. Niall Gilligan and Tony Carmody swopped roles before Padraig Hickey restored a two point lead with his second score. Maurice Sexton hit two frees in two minutes before a tremendous catch at midfield from Shane Golden was hit over the bar by the Sixmilebridge star. Niall Gilligan took inspiration from this and popped over two frees as once more Clare took the lead and this time with a three point advantage after 23 minutes. Six minutes lapsed in play with Clare and Cork both having moments of good play as Brian Corry and Kevin Hartnett ended the half with a score each to leave Clare (0-10) to (0-9) clear and quite happy to have contained their opponents after being unsure of their real value.
John Fennessy replaced Conor Earley with Aidan Lynch coming in for Kevin Dilleen on the Clare side for the start of the second half and both moves worked with Fennessy in particular showing good movement in the rearguard. Eoin Conway and Niall Gilligan were on target with two minutes of the restart as Clare thankfully were matching Cork score for score with the reality looming that the first goal would win the game. At the end of the third quarter Clare were ahead by the minimum, (0-14) to (0-13) as Kevin Moynihan with a stunning effort and Niall Gilligan increased Clare's tally only for Cork responses from Eamonn Brosnan, and Kevin Hartnett.
The game's definitive score fittingly fell to Niall Gilligan who gained possession on the 30 and sliced through the Cork defence before expertly finished past Darren McCarthy to send Clare four clear but more importantly gave Clare renewed confidence in themselves that a major breakthrough was imminent. David Drake hit back with a brilliant sideline cut before Tony Carmody who had a busy afternoon despite a number of wides kept Clare four clear before Daire Keane showed great self belief with a powerful solo effort that he finished to the net in the 50th minute to surge Clare (2-15) to (0-14) clear. Drake responded once again only to be matched by Declan O Rourke who had just being introduced. It was carnival stuff for Clare in the final five minutes with another sub Aidan Lynch who will start the Munster final, Daire Keane and Niall Gilligan rounding off the scoring as Andrew Fahy rounded off a perfect afternoon with a smart save at the death to keep a clean sheet.
Clare now take on Limerick in the decider at a venue to be decided by a toss if commonsense is applied on the appointed date of July 13th. It is ten years since Clare's last appearance in the final. Best for the winners were Andrew Fahy, Pat Kelly whose swashbuckling style reminded many of another full back of yesteryear, Alan Brigdale, John Fennessy and Michael Hawes were to the fore in the rearguard. Ronan Keane who worked with great honesty at midfield with Shane Golden as Padraig Hickey early on, Niall Gilligan and Tony Carmody did what was requested in the attack. Cork had honest displays in defeat from Darren McCarthy, Brian Corry, Maurice Sexton, David Drake, Ross Cashman, Kevin Hartnett and Eoin Dillon.
CORK: Darren McCarthy, John Carey, Eoin Dillon, Seamus Corry, Tadhg Healy, Mark Ellis ,Kevin Hartnett, Ross Cashman, Maurice Sexton (0-3), Brian Corry (0-3), Michael O Sullivan (0-1), Colm Casey, David Drake (0-4), Eoin Conway (0-1), Eamonn Brosnan (0-1). Subs: Maurice O Sullivan (0-1) for Casey, Seamus Harnedy for Conway,
CLARE: Andrew Fahy (Whitegate), Marty Regan (St Josephs), Patrick Kelly (Clarecastle), Alan Brigdale (Crusheen), Michael Hawes (Cratloe), Conor Earley (Tubber), Kevin Moynihan (Eire-og)(0-1), Ronan Keane (Eire-og) (0-3), Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge) (0-1), Daire Keane (Kilmaley) (1-2), Tony Carmody (Sixmilebridge) (0-3), Kevin Dilleen (St Josephs), Padraig Hickey (Broadford)(0-2), Niall Gilligan (Sixmilebridge)(1-5), Martin Duggan (Clooney/Quin). Subs: John Fennesssy (Sixmilebridge) for Earley, Aidan Lynch (Tulla)(0-1) for Dilleen, Joe O Connor (Parteen) for Hickey, Declan O Rourke (Wolfe Tones)(0-1) for Duggan.
Referee: Shane Hourigan (Limerick).