By Michael O Connor.
Lets, before we start issue a health warning with this game. Clare were deserving winners but could one doubt the real quality of a Cork team that surrendered meekly when asked to rise to the challenge. All that Clare gave was rewarded with a home semi final against Limerick on June 29th as Waterford will take on hotpots Tipperary in the second last four game.
D-day for Clare minor hurling. Success would bring a summer of hurling whilst defeat would see the three in a row dream extinguished before it ever really got going and at home to boot. The heartbreaking extra time defeat at the hands of Waterford the week previous gave hope that the Claremen who had fought hard had another performance within them to test the Cork visitors to Cusack park.
The big talking point was the availability of talismanic Jamie Shanahan with the suggestion that the SIxmilebridge would come on if required. A number of gingerly tussles before the throw in suggested a strong hours hurling was in store. The first action of the day required a smart save from Eibhear Quilligan from Anthony Spillane that conceded a converted 65 from Michael Cahalane. Two minutes and Cork were two ahead after a free from Pa O Callaghan. The early impetus was with the rebel starlets as Clare were unable to make any impact from play or frees. Cork who were shocked by Limerick in the quarter final rebounded to hammer Kerry in the play off game to set up this do or die clash at Clare headquarters. The third score also from a placed ball and again from O Callaghan left Cork ahead by three with ten minutes played.
A scorching run through the heart of the Clare defence by O Callaghan found the unmarked corner forward James O Brien who pointed from 30 yards as Corks hard running was proving difficult for Clare until the end of the first quarter. Clare finally got off the mark with scores from Shane Taylor and Conor Deasy to halve the Cork lead in the space of a minute.
Clare began to settle and for the intervening five minutes were the better side but unable to score hitting a number of wides despite good build up play as Alex Morey, Aidan McGuane and Shane Taylor were to the fore. Finally in the 20th minute Clare were on the scoreboard as Alex Morey pounced on a loose ball as Jamie Shanahan was warming up on the sideline. Cork responded with a Pa O Callaghan point after 22 minutes. A spectacular sideline cut by Alex Morey drew a large cheer as once more Clare were only a point in arrears. The game was deadlocked minutes later as Bobby Duggan who scored (1-8) the week previous opened his account with a free out near the sideline. Dillon Cahill won a free for Cork that was converted once more by O Callaghan. Befor the half time whistle both sides added to their tallies and there was even more action on the sideline that left Clare mentor Leo Doyle requiring medical attention following an altercation that saw Doyle more sinned against than sinned. At the break Clare were on level terms but steadily growing in confidence as now the move that would hopefully bring success was to be unveiled.
Three year county minor Jamie Shanahan was sprung from the bench and this brought the clare crowd to their feet as they sensed that this team was not for giving in and Cork who had contacted Galway for a challenge for June 15th were perhaps now after the opening ten minutes human.
Star of the show for Clare was corner-forward Bobby Duggan, who amassed 0-10. The Clarecastle player remarkably struck the first eight points of the second half and his marksmanship from placed balls was flawless. Indeed four of these scores came from frees won by Shanahan as the Clare team were now firing forward with gusto now really needing to hunt for goals as the frees were coming minute by minute.
Such was the control that Clare had of the game that after the 14th minute Clare outscored the visitors 16pts to 3pts until the 51st minute and by then nothing less that a goal fest was going to save Cork. They managed a solitary score from play in the second half as Michael Cahalane set up Pa O Callaghan who hit the game’s only goal as the game entered the final five minutes. The last score of the game fell to Niall Deasy who with two points had a happier hours hurling than the week before when he was introduced and subsequently replaced.
Great scenes of joy welcomed the final whistle as Eamonn Fennessy’s men had fought from early season apathy to now facing a munster semi final battle hardened. They may not be as flamboyant as the 2010 and 2011 vintages but are genuine and should improve once more.
Best for Clare were COnor Cleary, Shane O Brien, Brian Carey, Alex Morey, Shane Taylor, Jamie Shanahan, Bobby Duggan, Niall Deasy, Eoin Quirke and Aidan McGuane. Corks’ best in a game that their supporters will want to consign to the back pages of history included Pa O Callaghan, Michael Cahalane, Alan Dennehy and Killian O Connor
CORK: Patrick Collins, Stephen Murphy, Killian O Connor, Alan Dennehy, Killian McIntrye, Paul Fitzgerald, Daniel Mangan, Barry O Connell, Kevin O Neill, John Cashman, Dillon Cahill, Michael Cahalane (0-2), Anthony Spillane, Pa O Callaghan (1-6), James O Brien (0-1). Subs: R Cahalane for Cashman (39), T Horgan for O’Brien (39), A Sheehan for O’Connell (52)
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan, Shane O Brien, Brian Carey, Gearoid Ryan, Aidan McGuane, Conor Cleary, Eoin Quirke, David Conroy, Alex Morey (0-2), Stephen Ward, Niall Deasy (0-2), Shane Taylor (0-3), Shane O Donnell, Conor Deasy (0-1), Bobby Duggan (0-10). Subs: Jamie Shanahan for Ward , Shane Gleeson for Conroy (50), Brian Corry for O’Donnell (61).
REFEREE: Paul Foley (Waterford).