Cork 2-21 Clare 3-08
Clare play neighbours Limerick on Sunday in what could well decide the destination of the title in Division Two, but after 35 minutes on Saturday one would have been forgiven for thinking they, not Cork, were the top flight side.
Ahead at the break 3-7 to 0-8, they sliced through the Cork defence almost at will. Full-forward Diarmuid McMahon had the first goal (4th minute), a powerful double on a long Nicky O’Connell delivery, then Conor McGrath was on target (15th minute) after wing-back Pat Donnellan timed the scoring pass to perfection, andfinally, in injury-time, full-back James McInerney blasted home from a 20 metre free.
The Cork attack, meanwhile, playing into the elements, was making very little impression, relying heavily on the accuracy of free-taker Patrick Horgan with four points from placed balls. All changed, however, in the second period. As had been the case last week when they lost a half-time lead of 14 points against Waterford, Clare imploded.
One point was all Clare managed in those 35 minutes, from wing-forward Patrick O’Connor in the 50th minute, while Cork went on a spree. It began with a goaled 20m free in the 41st from the impressive Horgan and propelled with a second major seven minutes later after a huge free by centre-back John Gardiner was dropped by Clare keeper Donal Touhy.
The points came from a variety of scorers, centre-forward Pa Cronin (4), sub Michael Cussen (3), the flying Cathal Naughton with a brace. A convincing win for Cork then, a win that had selector Pat Buckley in good heart as the Offaly game approaches.
"It was a good response from the players in the second half, great scoring also, especially given the conditions."
Impressive form was shown also by several players. Full-back Eoin Dillon settled well after the concession of that early goal, Conor O’Sullivan and sub Jerry O’Mahony impressed in the corners, John Gardiner going on to dominate the middle, while Jerry O’Connor looked really sharp when introduced to midfield at the break.
"All the guys looked sharp," said Buckley "There’s a lot of work done, we have a good month put down – looking forward to the league now. The panel is strong and hopefully we can kick on from here. Picking the best 15 will be tough, but that was always a tough job in Cork – it’s early days yet."
For Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin, a mystery to solve – how to get his team to realise that there are two halves in a game. "We played nice hurling for 35 minutes and made three or four changes at half-time for lads we wanted to see. We knew Cork would come at us after the break but we went to sleep completely.
"That’s something we have to keep working on, but we’re not a million miles away either. We’ve taken a lot out of all these games we’ve played – hopefully now we’ll get off to a winning start in the league next week. It a huge game for both teams, but believe me, we know from our experience last year that there are several tricky games waiting for us.
"We’re very much a team that’s taking shape, looking forward to games like next week."
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 1-7 (1-6 frees); J Gardiner 1-2 (1-1 frees, 0-1 65); P Cronin 0-4; C Naughton 0-3; M Cussen 0-3; T Kenny, L McLoughlin, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: C McGrath 1-3 (0-2 frees); D McMahon 1-1; J McInerney 1-0 (free); P O’Connor 0-2; N O’Connell 0-2 (0-1 free).
CORK: A Nash; S McDonnell, E Dillon, C O’Sullivan; R Curran, J Gardiner, W Egan; B Murphy, L McLoughlin; T Kenny, P Cronin, C Naughton. P O’Sullivan. K. Murphy, P. Horgan
Subs: M Coleman for Nash, J O’Connor for McLoughlin, F O’Leary for P O’Sullivan, M Cussen for K Murphy, J Nagle for Curran, J O’Mahony for McDonnell (all half-time).
CLARE: D Touhy; E Glynn, J McInerney, C Cooney; C Dillon, B Bugler, P Donnellan; N O’Connell, D O’Donovan; P O’Connor, J Conlan, F Lynch; C McInerney, D McMahon, C McGrath.
Subs: C Morey for Conlan (32); T Murray for Donnellan (32); Gerry Quinn for J McInerney, C O’Donovan for C McInerney, C Tierney for D McMahon, C Ryan for C McGrath (all half-time).
Also introduced during the second half: Cathal Chaplin, Mark Earley, Brian Donnellan, Danny Morey.
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).