Clinical Rebels prove they're on the march
Cork 0-21 Clare 1-11
If league openers provide portents of the year to come, Cork gave themselves a platform on which to build at Páirc Uí Rinn last night.
Last year, Cork went to Galway for their first game and the loss there set the tone for a winless run and though relegation was avoided, it was merely a punctuation before a humbling championship campaign.
January of 2017 had brought success for Kieran Kingston's side in the Munster Hurling League, beating Limerick (twice), Waterford, Kerry and the Banner County, but, welcome and all as silverware was, disappointing performances in recent years meant the green shoots were treated with a guarded optimism. Thankfully for the Rebel faithful, there is something of substance in the rebuilding process
In front of 5,752, Cork had a great start as stand-in captain Alan Cadogan scored a fine point, one of four he would end up with, but both sides suffered from poor shooting in the early stages.
Clare would have eight scoring efforts go astray in the first half, with half of those before John Conlon opened their account in the seventh minute, but that didn't signal a revival either as Cork scored six of the next seven points, including one from the manager's son Shane, making his debut, which was unlucky not to be a goal.
Cadogan led by example with wing-back Mark Coleman - another of the five debutants - and midfielder Daniel Kearney standing out with performances of real industry. Full-back Colm Spillane, who missed 2016 with a cruciate injury, showed up well too and Patrick Horgan's free following a foul on Séamus Harnedy made it 0-7 to 0-2 with ten minutes before half-time.
They would only manage one more point in the opening period though, Cadogan's fourth, after Anthony Nash did well to keep out Clare's Aaron Shanagher, David Reidy converting the 65. The five-point margin was reduced to two in injury time, though, as Podge Collins goaled for Clare, netting the rebound after Nash had made a great save from Tony Kelly.
Within a minute of the restart, Cork ran the risk of all of their good work being wiped out as Spillane fouled Collins for a penalty. Kelly stepped up but didn't hit his shot cleanly, allowing Nash to save. That prompted another scoring burst from the home side. The irrepressible Kearney got two while two more of those making their league bows, Luke Meade and Darragh Fitzgibbon, got off to scoring starts.
Kearney's second put Cork in a commanding position, 0-13 to 1-4, but Clare continued to possess a scoring threat. Harnedy got in on the scoring act to make it 0-14 to 1-5, with Shanagher's reply then followed by two as Kingston augmented his tally.
Kelly did send over a few late points for Clare, but there was little consolation, especially with Kilkenny visiting Ennis next week. Cork welcome Dublin on Saturday night, and spirits will be high.
Scorers - Cork: P Horgan 0-5 (4f), S Kingston, A Cadogan 0-4 each, D Kearney, L Meade 0-2 each, S Harnedy, B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon, D Brosnan 0-1 each. Clare: T Kelly 0-6, P Collins 1-1, D Reidy 0-2f, A Shanagher, J Conlon 0-1 each.
Cork: A Nash; K Burke, C Spillane, D Griffin; C Joyce, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Kearney; D Fitzgibbon, S Harnedy, S Kingston; A Cadogan, P Horgan, L Meade. Subs: C O'Leary for Ellis (59), R O'Flynn for Fitzgibbon (62), L McLoughlin for Cooper, P Haughney for Kearney (both 69), D Brosnan for Kingston (70).
Clare: D Tuohy; S Morey, C Dillon, J Browne; J Shanahan, C Cleary, B Bugler; S Golden, T Kelly; J Conlon, P Collins, C Malone; A Shanagher, S O'Donnell, D Reidy. Subs: J McCarthy for Reidy (half-time), D Fitzgerald for Golden (46), A Cunningham for Conlon (62).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow)
Sunday Indo Sport