Clare 0-25 Cork 3-16
By Michael O Connor.
They said it could’nt happen again. Not another replay after the scenes of 2012. The bookmakers had it at odds from 10/1 to 14/1 but it did and once again the rollercoaster season of 2013 that has seen every real favourite for the All Ireland title fall by the way side allowing in two sides that might have accepted a provincial title as a good season’s work three months ago to slug it out for immortality.
The word tradition was bandied around like confetti in the lead up to the game as if it meant something once the ball was thrown in by Brian Gavin. Ironically the winning tradition in the last half decade has been with Clare albeit at minor a Under 21 level. An example of this was the likes of Pat O Connor with 2 Munster and 2 all Ireland successes. Cork have been invisible at underage level for nearly a decade but the age old adage that Cork can come with a team bore true in 2013. Even in 2012 having reached the semi final they were signalling promise with Galway just overcoming them in the final ten minutes. With two iconic figures over the two finalists the hype machine went into overdrive media wise for the fortnight prior to the game as the bookmakers were making Cork slight favourites to end a eight year wait for Liam McCarthy.
The past was present for Clare people to rejoice when Ger Loughnane, Sean Stack and Johnny Callinan were honoured on the team of the 80s not to win an All Ireland medal and the cheer that went up was a symbol of how much the Clare support recognised old warriors but were ready to acclaim new stars.
Cork won the toss and elected to play into the Davin Stand for the first half as widespread rumours regarding John Conlon’s fitness was an early morning scare that amounted to nothing. Darach Honan hit the first point of the game with less than two minutes played. Colin Ryan with the first of 12 scores added a free as Domhnall O Donovan was controlling his side of the field in the first quarter leading to the substitution of Jamie Coughlan at the break. UCC star Seamus Harnedy and John Conlon swopped scores in the 6th minute as did Patrick Horgan (free) and Tony Kelly two minutes later. A further brace of frees by Patrick Horgan levelled the game as Cork required frees to stay in touch with a Clare side that were on top in a lot of sectors. Colin Ryan put Clare ahead in the 13th minute as Brian Gavin booked Shane O Neill and Darach Honan after 15 minutes but many believing that O Neill was fortunate in the extreme to escape with a yellow.
Patrick Kelly pulled off a fine block from Daniel Kearney and as well from the controversial free by Nash which he struck on the 14 yard line that was body blocked by Kelly who rushed from his line. Scores from Padgue Collins (2) and another Ryan free had Clare comfortable (0-8) to (0-4) clear after 22 minutes but their efforts were being stifled or not being rewarded by a goal that would have killed the game as an event. Clare were attacking the ball with confidence as Cork were hanging on for their championship existence. Cork and Clare shared nine points in the last ten minutes of the first half with the rebels outscoring Clare 5-4 in this section of the game. Pat Horgan (3), Daniel Kearney and Brian Murphy were on the scoresheet for Cork as frees were keeping the Cork men in the game. Colin Ryan (2), Tony Kelly and Collins responded for Clare as the tempo of the game was mesmerizing the 81.651 spectators that left Clare (0-12) to (0-10) ahead at the break. The highlight of all these scores was a huge effort from halfway out near the Hogan stand sideline by Horan just before the half time whistle that signaled that Cork despite the best that Clare could offer were not going to wilt despite appearing holding onto Clare’s coat tails.
The half time consensus was that Clare deserved a greater lead for their effort, possession and half back dominance in particular with free’s keeping Cork in contention for most of the half. However with the recent history that Cork were goal shy suggested that Clare might hit enough points to sneak home. How little did we know.
The opening score of the new half fell to Tony Kelly following a splendid pass from midfield partner Colm Galvin who had one of his quietest afternoon’s all season. Colin Ryan added a free to open up a four point lead before a hammer blow delivered by Cork that had Clare reeling. Conor Lehane raced down the Cusack stand side past Pat O Connor before blasting past Patrick Kelly to leave Cork behind by the minimum and Clare having done all the hurling. Colin Ryan, Patrick Horgan, and Padgue Collins with one of the scores of any season left Clare (0-16) to (1-11) ahead after 44 minutes. A blip on the scoring radar for Ryan saw the Newmarket man miss two in a row in two minutes as Daniel Kearney hit a great effort from play. Conor McGrath and John Conlon came to the aid of Clare as they steadied the ship as Brendan Bugler and Pat Donnellan were beginning to create a foothold around midfield/half back area with Conor Ryan consistent throughout. However, it must be noted that Clare defenders did not look over comfortable in the final quarter when Cork ran at them and the lack of a goal scoring punch in the final 20 yards of the field was hampering the true potential of the team on the day.
Ryan got back on the scoresheet with three in a row including one from play as Seamus Harnedy responded for Cork to leave Clare five clear and appearing to be on the home straight. Disaster number two for Clare however derailed this when a penalty awarded to Cork was blasted home by Anthony Nash. Minutes later another free was awarded to Cork but Nash’s effort was stopped by Colin Ryan’s shoulder. Had that goal gone in Clare would have struggled to get a result.
When the need was greatest for a steadying score Colin Ryan (free) and a tremendous effort from Conor Ryan restored a four point lead before Conor Lehane narrowed this to a goal. The tension, noise, emotions, and general excitement now existed at a level rarely experienced by GAA supporters from any code. A high lobbing ball into the Clare square broke out to Pa Cronin who made enough space to blast past Patrick Kelly and now the sides were level and many sensing the impetus had switched to the leesiders. Clare and Cork brought on replacements with many post match suggesting Clare were for once a little sluggish in this part of their gameplan. A truly pressure score from Colin Ryan gave Clare a nervous one point lead but this was negated a minute later when Patrick Horgan with his second last score of the day suggested the game was heading for a replay. Clare, at this interval would have taken this result but when Horgan once again got the ball in the 70th minute and made no mistake it looked like the once in a lifetime chance for Clare was now diminishing before their eyes.
Clare had one last chance after a Cork sideline went wide. Patrick Kelly had the presence of mind to see Domhnall O Donovan had raced upfield and eventually the ball got to the Clonlara man and what he managed for his club, his school and definitely in NUIGalway he finally managed in his 12 appearance for Clare and repeated the feat of his brother Cormac who scoring the winning point in 2009 All Ireland Under 21 final. This time, however it was on the biggest stage imaginable and when the long whistle went Clare were still in the race.
Best for Clare were Domhnall O Donovan who will have a niche for himself in Clare history, Brendan Bugler, Pat O Connor in the first half, Conor Ryan who was named as man of the match, Tony Kelly in the second half, Colin Ryan who was once again scorer in chief and rallied well after missing two in three minutes, Padgue Collins and John Conlon who had his best game for some time and survived without getting injury. Luck had it for Clare that the referee who was considered the best in the business at 3.30 was maligned at 5pm dropped the whistle from his mouth in the 72nd minute and that allowed the famous last play that kept Clare in the hunt for the McCarthy cup in 10 days time. Cork were well served by Shane O Neill, Conor O Sullivan, Brian Murphy, Daniel Kearney, Patrick Horgan, Anthony Nash and Seamus Harnedy
Cork will use the time to the replay saying they underperformed and got out of jail and could have won the tie. Clare were the better side over the 70 minutes but faded in the last 15 minutes. Cork now know they can hit goals after a barren season and Clare know they must now target goals or else they are in the hapenny place if the game enters the final minutes and are not comfortably ahead.
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan (0-12, 11 frees); T Kelly (0-3); P Collins (0-3); C McGrath (0-2); J Conlon (0-2); D Honan, Conor Ryan, D O’Donovan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan (0-10, eight frees); C Lehane (1-1); P Cronin (1-0); A Nash (1-0, free); S Harnedy (0-2); D Kearney (0-2); B Murphy (0-1).
CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, D McInerney; B Bugler, Conor Ryan, P O’Connor; T Kelly, C Galvin; Colin Ryan, P Collins, J Conlon; C McGrath, D Honan, P Donnellan (c).
Subs for Clare: C McInerney for Honan (61); F Lynch for Conlon (64); N O’Connell for Galvin (64).
CORK: A Nash; S McDonnell, S O’Neill, C O’Sullivan; B Murphy, C Joyce, W Egan; D Kearney, L McLoughlin; S Harnedy, P Cronin (c), C Lehane; L O’Farrell, P Horgan, J Coughlan.
Subs for Cork: S Moylan for Coughlan (35); C McCarthy for McLoughlin (42); C Naughton for McCarthy (inj. 50); T Kenny for Egan (64); S White for Kearney (67).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).