Banner simply have too much
Munster SHC Round 4: Clare 2-23 Cork 2-18
All the hype about Cork's chances of success in the 2019 All Ireland campaign took a big hit last weekend when the Lee-siders came unstuck against a Clare side that put it all on the line.
In front of almost 17,000 paying customers, the Banner side left no stone unturned as they dismantled what was meant to be another stepping stone of a day for Cork leaving the visitors to Cusack Park feeling a little bit sorry for themselves.
From the off this one looked like it would be a problem for John Meyler's side as Clare bagged 1-1 inside 60 seconds to raise the roof on the old Ennis ground.
Peter Duggan, John Conlon and Tony Kelly impressed up front for the Banner with Shane O'Donnell and midfielder Colm Galvin also putting in very credible attacking shifts.
For Cork, Patrick Horgan was again the man to watch with Alan Cadogan at number 13 and the rampaging Darragh Fitzgibbon putting in really good displays.
Clare came flying from the traps with a spectacular Shane O'Donnell goal inside 20 seconds. The corner-forward made no mistake when put through one-on-one with Anthony Nash with Aidan McCarthy adding to the fervent atmosphere on the resumption with a point - still inside the first minute.
Cork responded almost immediately with their own net buster with Patrick Horgan reacting first to a Donal Tuohy save from an Aidan Walsh goal bound effort.
Peter Duggan kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side with Horgan, Fitzgibbon and Daniel Kearney all doing well for Cork. Alan Cadogan was the main threat for Cork with some brilliant turns and three points in the opening 35.
Despite all of Cork's endeavour it was Clare that were leading the way throughout the first half with Tony Kelly, John Conlon and Colm Galvin doing well on their respective markers.
Kelly in particular was a real threat and, despite having a couple of efforts sail wide, the centre-forward popped up at the right time in the first half of injury time to finish a brilliantly worked move involving Duggan and O'Donnell.
Kelly's strike left Nash with no chance however Cork did have a brace of Horgan's frees to celebrate as the sides headed for the interval 2-10 to 1-08.
Cork came out with a renewed sense of purpose after the break and managed to bag the first four points of the half with Horgan, Fitzgibbon and Alan Cadogan all troubling the scoreboard.
As the rain bucketed down Clare managed to stem the flow with a quick triple from Duggan and while Cork were far from done - a point from Horgan keeping the visitors in touch - few could argue that this one was getting away from them.
Clare kept the pressure up with Duggan pilling pain on for every infraction however Cork were thrown a life line on 66 minutes when a brilliant move involving mark Coleman, Bill Cooper, Seamus Harnedy and Horgan resulted in the latter smashing home his second major of the game.
There was a sense around the ground that Cork may well be able to pull this one from the fire as the players pushed forward at every available opportunity, but Clare were having none of it and the men in yellow hit back again, this time with five of the next six points to run out worthy winners.
Cork will now face the losers of the Joe McDonagh Cup Final (Laois or Westmeath) in an All-Ireland Preliminary Quarter final while Clare leave the competition with little more that their pride restored.
Cork will need to heed the lessons of this one or they may see their season come to another premature ending - something few in Cork want to see this summer.
CLARE: D Tuohy; P O'Connor, D McInerney, S Morey; C Malone, J Browne, C Cleary; J McCarthy, C Galvin 0-3; A McCarthy 0-1, P Duggan 0-12 (9f), D Ryan 0-2; T Kelly 1-2, J Conlon 0-1, S O'Donnell 1-0 Subs: R Taylor for A McCarthy (h/t), S Golden for J McCarthy (62),D Fitzgerald for P O'Connor (66), A Shanagher for Conlon (66), C McInerney 0-2 for Ryan (67)
CORK: A Nash; S O'Donoghue, E Cadogan, N O'Leary; R Downey, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon 0-2; D Kearney 0-1, S Harnedy 0-1, L Meade; A Cadogan 0-4, P Horgan 2-9, (7f) A Walsh Subs: S McDonnell for Downey, D Cahalane for E Cadogan (both h/t), S Kingston 0-1 for Kearney (47), C Lehane for Walsh (52), D Dalton for Meade (66)
Referee: P O'Dwyer (Carlow)
The game in 60 seconds
Man of the match
Plenty candidates for this accolade with Mark Coleman high on the pecking order but in really it was always going the way of a Clare man and Peter Duggan typified all that was food about the banner on this day. Cork couldn't get a handle on Duggan and paid a heavy price. Also in the reckoning has to be Tony Kelly who was magnificent on the day.
Few issues that had people talking in their cars and buses on the way home with the ridiculously severe rain shower just after half time leading the way - closely followed, it must be said, by the poor showing of many Cork stars that people thought had turned a corner. A feeling of relief was evident with expectations definitely gone down a notch or two since the game against Limerick a few weeks previous.
Cork trailed this one from the start however there were times when momentum looked like it was turning in their direction. Just after the restart Cork managed to get the gap down to one but three points from Duggan in a three minute spell put Cork on the back foot again. Cork didn't have what was required to respond instead they had to settle for second best with a chance of making it to the latter stages still very much alive.
What next for Cork?
Cork just didn't perform to the levels that both the public and the management team have come to expect. Cork couldn't handle Duggan, John Conlan and Tony Kelly and they will need to address that as other counties have even more impressive forwards waiting to cut down Cork's backs. Small bit of rest, plenty soul searching and knock-out hurling is what awaits. Long summer yet.