John Meyler praises Rebels' resolve as Clare lament failure to take 'five or six' goal chances
Munster SHC: Cork 2-23 Clare 1-21
In hurling's brave new world, the tendency for a manager these weeks will be to look forward more than any glance into the rear view mirror at what has just happened.
So it was with Cork's John Meyler who was already thinking about Thurles and Tipperary just seven days later and recovery processes, even as the dust settled here.
But for Cork, it's worth a glance back, not just to their opening championship win in Páirc Uí Chaoimh against Clare but to last summer when they were crowned Munster champions.
How easy has it been to forget that?
In any pre-championship consideration or conversation, few, if any, were given to saying with any conviction that Cork would retain that title. Backing for them to make the top three was nowhere near unanimous either. So this felt like an important embellishment of last year's work in the province.
They showed resolution, defensive craft and in experienced attacking axis - Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan - plenty of class to get them over the line in an absorbing battle.
When the Rebels were asked searching questions by Clare, they had a response each time. Horgan led the line with 10 points, six from frees, Harnedy and Lehane chipped in with 1-2 apiece but it was the understated work of players like Mark Coleman, Colm Spillane, Christopher Joyce and the powerful Damien Cahalane which laid the foundations for this important home win.
Already, Clare's quest to win a first Munster title in 20 years is on the back foot. They were competitive but never got into a flow that might have taken them past Cork to build a winning momentum as Cork delivered a fourth successive championship win over them since their All-Ireland final replay in 2013. That seems so long ago now.
Clare joint-manager Donal Moloney admitted the Rebels have an edge. "It's not much of an edge, though. It's early in the summer yet and you never know how things will turn out, how things evolve," he said with a hint of more to come.
"They (Cork) have some fine hurlers, they're one of the best teams in the country but there isn't that much between the sides."
After leading by 0-3 to 0-0 early on and 0-4 to 0-3 after eight minutes, they were never in front again once Horgan levelled in the 11th minute.
Inside forwards Conor McGrath and Peter Duggan never fired, Shane O'Donnell had a great battle with Spillane, scoring two points and setting Tony Kelly up for goal but Clare didn't get enough from the possession he was able to win.
Kelly had a quiet game by his exalted standards yet still finished with 1-3, one from a free. But those lung-bursting surges from midfield didn't materialise often enough and when they don't it's obvious how much Clare depend upon them.
Moloney was left to bemoan the failure to capitalise on fail he reckoned his team had, reflecting on the quality of Cork's defence.
"How they scrambled back at times was very, very good. A couple of their defenders were excellent from that point of view." Chief among them was Coleman who cut across in the 25th minute to block David Reidy magnificently after good approach work between Reidy and O'Donnell.
There was newcomer Sean O'Donoghue's 10th-minute hook on McGrath and a subsequent hit on Cathal Malone that warmed the predominantly local 24,490 crowd, other examples of Cork's more aggressive defence.
Cork led by 0-11 to 0-10 at the break and it might have been more had Robbie O'Flynn showed more conviction with a shot that Donal Tuohy was able to deal with comfortably on 18 minutes.
O'Flynn collided with colleague Lehane in the 45th minute as they both chased a Coleman delivery and he came off worse with a suspected concussion. The match was held up for around eight minutes as medics treated him and removed him from the field. He subsequently went to Cork University Hospital for further examination.
When play resumed, Cork struck a quick blow. O'Flynn's replacement Shane Kingston hit a shot that looked to be drifting wide, Horgan chased it down and got a beautiful backhand touch which fell right for Lehane who finished at the second attempt. The ball may have been over the line when Horgan made contact.
The goal stood and Horgan added a point for a five-point lead but Clare, driven on by John Conlon, wiped out that lead with David Reidy (free) and Conlon points before Kelly's goal, courtesy of O'Donnell's deft pass into his path.
Meyler loved the character they showed when Clare came back at them in that second half. "We went off the rails a small bit for about five minutes when Clare got 1-2 and levelled it. We worked the ball up the field well which I was delighted with." No one did it better than Darragh Fitzgibbon who drove relentlessly at Clare. He was over-zealous at times but his engine was phenomenal.
The side were level three more times but Cork sparked again with Horgan landing a 95-metre free to lead 1-20 to 1-19 into injury time and when Harnedy climbed high to catch an Anthony Nash puck-out, he forced his way through the cover in trademark fashion and applied a superb finish to make it safe.
New landscape, same result.
Scorers - Cork: P Horgan 0-10 (6fs); S Harnedy, C Lehane 1-2 each; D Fitzgibbon 0-3; M Ellis 0-2; M Coleman, B Cooper, D Brosnan, R O'Flynn all 0-1 each. Clare: T Kelly 1-3 (1f); J Conlon 0-5; P Duggan 0-4 (4fs); C Galvin 0-3; D Reidy (2fs) 0-3; S O'Donnell 0-2; C McGrath 0-1.
Cork - A Nash 7; C Spillane 7, D Cahalane 7, S O'Donoghue 7; M Ellis 7, C Joyce 7, M Coleman 8; D Fitzgibbon 8, B Cooper 7; S Harnedy 7, C Lehane 7, D Kearney 7; R O'Flynn 5, L Meade 5, P Horgan 8. Subs: S Kingston 5 for Meade (43), T O'Mahony 6 for O'Flynn inj (53), D Brosnan 6 for Kearney (68).
Clare - D Tuohy 7; P O'Connor 6, D McInerney 7, J Browne 6; S Morey 7, C Cleary 7, D Fitzgerald 7; C Galvin 7, T Kelly 7; C Malone 5, J Conlon 8, D Reidy 7; C McGrath 6, P Duggan 5, S O'Donnell 7. Subs: D Corry 5 for Duggan (57), M O'Malley 6 for O'Connor (69), I Galvin for Reidy (75), J Shanahan for C Galvin (76).
Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny)