Sunday 22 October 2017

Battle cry must sound once more

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

THE sliotar sailed from the hurley of Patrick Horgan over the bar and into the tumult of Hill 16. One minute of extra time left, and Cork had taken the lead for the very first time in this tense thriller of a final.

The red half of the Hill went doolally. A plume of celebratory scarlet smoke escaped from the top of the terrace. Only 60 seconds before the Liam MacCarthy Cup headed to the Rebel County for the 31st time.

They thought it was all over. The roiling, boiling crowd were on their feet as the stadium shook to raucous roars of jubilation and passionate pleas of desperation.

The 60 seconds ticked towards 90. Clare snatched back possession. Clonlara man Domhnall O'Donovan belted the ball, a last-gasp grab at salvation. And over it flew. Domhnall had never scored a championship point up until now. What a stage upon which to make your debut, and what extraordinarily breath-taking timing.

Before this finale to a dramatic championship, everyone was in agreement about one thing – that this Clare-Cork clash would be a close-run thing.

Two teams stuffed with youth and talent and energy, two sides which no one in their wildest imaginings foresaw running out of the tunnel and on to the pristine Croker turf on All-Ireland final day.

Clare supporters Sean Rynne and his brother Conor at Croke Park
Clare supporters Sean Rynne and his brother Conor at Croke Park

In many respects, Cork and Clare were the Accidental Finalists. Last week, writing for the GAA website, sidelined Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack wrote: "If you had said last September that Clare and Cork would be contesting this year's All-Ireland hurling final you would have been taken down with a tranquilliser gun. "If you had suggested that they would come through from an incredible championship full of surprise and full of fluid and skilful hurling you would have thought it all through again and then administered the tranquilliser yourself."

And as over 81,000 faithful descended on the ground yesterday afternoon, there was a prevailing atmosphere that it was something of an unexpected day out all around.

The skies may have been overcast over GAA headquarters, but the mood of sunny optimism rising from the river of Clare and Cork fans streaming down Jones's Road was little short of dazzling.

The Smiddy family, mum and dad Fionnuala and Dave, and Aoife (10) and Daire (9) from Dungourney in east Cork, were decked out in red from hat-to-toe.

"I'm quietly confident, as any Cork person often is," said Dave. "I think both teams will turn up today, so it'll probably be close," he reckoned.

But equally positive were the wearers of the saffron and blue of the Banner County. Aoife Daffy, from Ennis, was still in school when Clare last won the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1997.

"All I remember was the happiness, the team came to the school and we sang and danced for them. We're going to do it today, though we might have heart problems before the end," she declared.

The hum of nervous tension emanating from both sets of players during the first half was almost audible.

Clare outhurled their opponents time and again, but the Rebels kept coming back and at halftime were probably relieved to find themselves a scant two points in arrears, with the game balanced delicately at 0-12 to 0-10. But all hell broke loose in the second half. There were dramatic goals and dramatic saves. Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald almost turned himself inside out on the sideline, bellowing and gesturing and hopping up and down like a rooster on a hot griddle.

On the pitch, there was a bit of pushing and shoving as tempers frayed and the clock ticked down. Clare eased ahead by five points. Then Cork's majestic goalkeeper, Anthony Nash, trotted the length of the field for a 20-metre free, scored a goal and got his team back in the hunt.

Was the tide turning towards the banks of the Lee? The pace grew more frantic. It was relentless, end-to-end combat. Clare kept slotting over points, Cork kept scoring goals.

It looked all over when Horgan made it 3-16 to Clare's 0-24 in extra time. But even as Cork fists shot heavenwards in joy, a last, incredible point sliced through their triumph. The clock stood at 72 minutes and 29 seconds.

The young guns had fought to a draw. Two sets of supporters clutched their hearts and rediscovered how to breathe.

Sheleen Glynn and Emma Coakley from Mallow at the All Ireland Final
Sheleen Glynn and Emma Coakley from Mallow at the All Ireland Final
Clare Fans at the All Ireland Final
Elaine Murphy with Aoife O'Riordan and Marie Sweeney from Mallow at the All Ireland Final
Stephanie White with Elaine O'Brien and Sarah Crowley from Cork at the All Ireland Final
Roisin Lillis,Clara Kennedy with Sally Glynn and Ellie Mc Grath at the All Ireland Final
Meadhbh Vaughan with Kate Scanlon and Maria Vaughan from Clare at the All Ireland Final
Sheleen Glynn and Emma Coakley from Mallow at the All Ireland Final
Clare supporters, left to right, Claire Kearney, Sarah O'Connor and Eleanor Custy, from Ennis, Co. Clare, ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams arrives ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin
Former WBA Super Bantamweight World Champion Bernard Dunne ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cork supporters Claire, left, and Catherine Conden, from Ballinascarthy, Co. Cork, ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Becca Keeffe, from Ballinhassig, Co. Cork, and her friend Emma McLoughlin, from Carrigaholt, Co. Clare, ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Issac Boss arrives ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan T.D. arrives ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Simon Coveney T.D. ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Minister of State with responsibility for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring T.D., ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Robert and Marian Heffernan with their children, Cathal and Megan, ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Former Cork hurler Tomás Mulcahy arrives ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Joan Burton ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
RTÉ broadcaster Jimmy McGee ahead of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cork supporters on their way to the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
Celebrity chef Dylan McGrath on his way to the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
Darren Droney, Anne McInerney, Emma Droney all from Kilcock at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Carol McSweeney at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Katie McKenna Ennis and Aisling o Halloran at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Caroline & Grainne Madden from Scariff at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke
Comedian Dara O Briain at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Con Hurley from Castlemagner at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
) Cliona O Connell from Kildysart Clare & Brian Calinan from Glandore at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Cork fans at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Minister for Social Protection Joan burton TD & Aoife Carroll at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Racewalker Rob Heffernan with (L to R) Catahal (8) wife Marion Heffernan & Megan 10 All from Douglas at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Sean ODonoghue from Inniscarra at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Paul Murphy & Linda O'Leary both from Carrig navar at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Ciaran Buckley from Mallow at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Members of the Smiddy family Fionnuala, Aoife 10, Daire 8 & Dave at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD & his daughter Aoibha Martin (17) at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cyril Kavanagh Douglas & Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Sean o Donoghue from Inniscarra at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Jason o Reilly 12 from Parteen at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Katie McKenna Ennis & Aisling o Halloran kKlmaley at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cork fans at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Aisling Butler from Kilbritain & Aoife Hearty from Bandon at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Liam Redmond from Skibbereen at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Brian O'Rourke Carrigaline at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Ex Irish Soccer International kevin Moran at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Karen Sutton from Stoneybatter at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Rachel Ryan Doonbeg at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Amanda Ryan & Rachel Ryan both from Doonbeg at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Donna Lyons, Lisa Hegarty & Jennifer Lyons all from Mallow at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Linda Buckley from Inniscarra at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Lisa Maire Jordan model farm rd at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Siobhan Brennan, Mary Beamish, Siobhan Hennessy all from Clonakilty at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park
Michelle Casey Ennis, Mary Carey Ennis, Elaine Doolaghty Barefield at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cathal Quirke from Whitegate at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.
Sinead ORiordan & Aisling OShea both from Ballycotton at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Caoimhe Kelleher from Mallow at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Eleanor Custy from Doora, Barefield, Clare Kearney Corofin at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Amy Solon, Katie Hynes, Niamh Quirke all from White Gate at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork & Clare in Croke Park, Dublin.

And so now there's only one game in town. Let the Great Ticket Hunt commence.

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