Rebels dazed and confused as Clare rip up script
FORGET the successful Irish raiders at Cheltenham and instead doff your hat to the Clare hurlers, who staged a dramatic smash and grab of the points at Pairc Ui Rinn thanks to a barnstorming second-half performance.
The Banner boys left Cork management, players and fans in shock after tearing up the pre-match script that portrayed them in the role of gallant underdogs.
Clare turned a five-point deficit – 0-12 to 0-7 – at half-time into a six-point winning margin at the finish of a hectic second half.
They were deserving winners and left hitherto unbeaten Cork in a daze. Both the winning and losing managers declined to comment after the game, although Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald looked like the cat who got the cream.
Clare selector Mike Deegan did the talking for the Banner. "It would be fair to say that we weren't happy at the break with the first-half performance.
"We got re-focused at half-time and the second-half performance was a lot better.
"In the second half our half-back line really picked up. Pat Donnellan, I thought, was outstanding in the and Brendan (Bugler) and Pat (O'Connor) as well.
"But that (half-back) line in the second half really made a big difference," said Deegan.
Cork selector Kieran Kingston didn't pull any punches, saying: "We've a tough campaign ahead of us now. There's no excuse.
"The full-back line I thought were good, to be fair. They battled and were consistent. Other than that, we were beaten in most aspects of the game.
"The most disappointing aspect was the turnaround from being six (points) up to nine down.
"On the other side of it, games like that can switch on small things.
"We had at least two good goal chances when we were four or five points up. Their 'keeper made good saves, but at this level you should be putting them away."
It could have been a much different outcome if Cork's Stephen Moylan had hit the net with a 13th-minute shot from point-blank range. He was denied by a super save from Clare 'keeper Patrick Kelly.
That block was crucial as it prevented Cork from taking a five-point lead at a stage when they had all the momentum.
Kelly also made a point-blank save from Paudie Sullivan's seemingly goal-bound effort in the 51st minute and got a foot to a late attempt on goal by Cathal Naughton.
A good night's work, indeed, by the 'keeper, who also made an important contribution in Clare's previous match against Galway.
The result warmed the hearts of the travelling Clare support among a 7,287 attendance, but apart from deadly accurate free-taker Colin Ryan, the Banner didn't impress in the first half.
Five points in arrears at half-time on a chilly evening, it seemed that all the actors on stage knew their roles and performed accordingly.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy's team were motoring along nicely, albeit they were a tad wasteful with their shooting.
Clare had been bright, eager, and lively but were shaded in most of the exchanges.
They had Colin Ryan and the goalie to thank for preventing a greater interval deficit, but the game turned in the last 25 minutes.
Cork tipped along up to the 45th minute, adding three points, two from frees by Pat Horgan and a score from play by Seamus Harnedy. The woodwork denied them a couple of points and another few chances went wide of the target.
Clare also kept the umpires at the Cork end gainfully employed in raising white flags.
When that happened for the ninth time in the 16 minutes after the tea-break, suddenly they were level, and Cork had to awake to a new reality that the underdogs now led by 0-16 to 0-15.
The alarm bells were sounded, but Cork didn't – or couldn't – respond in the fashion Barry-Murphy wanted to see.
By then Clare were fully in their stride, with skipper Donnellan the rallying force from the half-back line, and Nicky O'Connell, Conor Ryan, Tony Kelly, John Conlan, and Colin Ryan constantly raiding forward to good effect.
Cork's Paudie O'Sullivan, Pat Horgan and Pat Cronin typified the energetic and sometimes desperate attempts of the home side to regain a foothold in the match, but Clare kept powering forward and scoring points.
The most damning statistic was that Horgan's 57th-minute point from a free was the Rebels' only score between the 44th minute and a last-minute goal by substitute Luke O'Farrell. It was simply too little, too late. O'Farrell's goal only put a smidgin of gloss on the scoreline.
Far more relevant was the Clare goal, powered to the net by Shane O'Donnell in the 63rd minute.
That maximum confirmed the resurgence of the visitors and they pushed on inexorably towards their reward – a hugely satisfactory, and deserved, victory.
Man of the match: P Donnellan (Clare)
Scorers – Clare: Colin Ryan 0-12 (9f), T Kelly 0-4, S O'Donnell 1-0, J Conlon, Conor Ryan 0-2 each, D Honan, N O'Connell 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (8f, '65'), L O'Farrell 1-0, P O'Sullivan, S Harnedy, L McLoughlin 0-2 each, D Kearney 0-1.
Clare – P Kelly 8; D O'Donovan 7, D McInerney 7, S Morey 7; B Bugler 7, P Donnellan 8, P O'Connor 7; N O'Connell 7, Conor Ryan 7; Colin Ryan 8, T Kelly 7, E Barrett 7; S O'Donnell 7, J Conlan 7, P Collins 7 Subs: F Lynch 7 for E Barrett (40), C Galvin 7 for P Collins (49); C McInerney 6 for C Ryan (61); D Honan for S O'Donnell (66)
Cork – A Nash 6; S O'Neill 6, B Murphy 6, C O'Sullivan 6; C Joyce 6, P Cronin 6, W Egan 6; D Kearney 6, L McLoughlin 6; C McCarthy 6, P O'Sullivan 7, S Harnedy 6; S Moylan 6, P O'Brien 6, P Horgan 7 Subs: C Lehane 6 for S Moylan (50), L O'Farrell 6 for P O'Brien (55), T Kenny 5 for D Kearney (59), C Naughton 5 for S Harnedy (60)
Ref – J Ryan (Tipperary)