All-Ireland SHC final replay: brilliant Banner prevail in classic

28 September 2013

Clare's Patrick Donnellan lifts the Liam MacCarthy ©INPHO/James Crombie
Clare 5-16
Cork 3-16

Clare have been crowned All-Ireland hurling champions for only the fourth time in their history following an amazing final replay at Croke Park this evening.

A hat-trick of goals from late call-up Shane O'Donnell inside the first 19 minutes lit the touch paper for an unbelievable contest which ebbed and flowed before Davy Fitzgerald's young side finally put the result beyond doubt with an injury-time goal from substitute Darach Honan.

It will go down as one of the greatest finals of all-time - surpassing the drama of the drawn encounter three weeks ago - and provides a fitting end to the best hurling championship in living memory.

This epic was similar to the original game in that Clare stormed ahead, only to be reeled in by their never-say-die opponents. The Banner looked to have one hand on the Liam MacCarthy Cup when they led by eight points after a frenetic opening half hour of hurling, but Cork dug deep to go into the break trailing by just four points, 1-11 to 3-9.

The Rebels continued their comeback after the restart and, incredibly, had drawn level, 1-16 to 3-10, by the 52nd minute. Crucially, though, Clare were never headed and, while a Seamus Harnedy goal had the sides level again with 10 minutes to go, the Banner were able to respond with an unanswered 1-3 to open up a six-point lead at the end of normal time.

Cork - who played much better than in the drawn game - refused to give up the ghost, though, as substitute Stephen Moylan's 70th minute goal reduced the deficit to three and set up a grandstand finish.

In a dramatic climax, Seadna Morey - who had just come as a substitute - lifted the siege for Clare with a surging run out of defence before clearing downfield for Honan to score the insurance goal and send the saffron and blue supporters into raptures.

Ultimately, O'Donnell was the difference between the teams. A late replacement for Honan, the 19-year-old from the Eire Og club in Ennis left an indelible mark on the replay by bagging 3-3 in a man of the match display. And like so many of his team-mates, he now has an All-Ireland senior medal to go with the All-Ireland U21 medal he won in Thurles a fortnight ago.

Despite there being blue skies over GAA headquarters, the floodlights were on from the start for this eagerly-awaited replay which was played before an attendance of 82,276. The game started at a breakneck pace with John Conlon putting the Banner in front inside 70 seconds and Shane O'Donnell following up with a second point moments later.

As in the drawn game, Seamus Harnedy raised Cork's first white flag before Luke O'Farrell set up Lorcan McLoughlin for a fourth-minute equaliser. It was the only time in the first half that the sides were level as Conor McGrath soon had Clare back in front.

The Banner faithful were on their feet in the sixth minute when team captain Pat Donnellan soloed through the heart of the Cork defence before laying off possession to O'Donnell who flashed the ball to the bottom right hand corner of Anthony Nash's net for his fourth goal of the championship.

Cork were rattled and immediately conceded a free which the ever-reliable Colin Ryan popped over to put five points between the sides, 1-4 to 0-2, after just seven minutes. Patrick Horgan (free) and Conor Lehane narrowed the gap, but the momentum remained with Davy Fitzgerald's men who restored their five-point advantage through another Ryan free before Conor McGrath created the opening for O'Donnell to hammer home his second goal in the 12th minute.

Already faced with a seven-point deficit, the Rebels got themselves back into it with a second Lehane point and a trademark thunderbolt of a goal from Anthony Nash.

When Pa Cronin - who started on the edge of the square - was fouled on the 20-metre line in the 15th minute, Cork didn't hesitate in bringing up their All Star goalkeeper to take the free. Clare put a dozen players on the goal-line, but they were powerless to keep out Nash's shot, which nearly burst the net at the Davin Stand end.

That goal brought the gap back to three points, 1-5 to 2-5. Ryan and Horgan traded frees before the elusive O'Donnell took centre stage again with his third major after a terrible mix-up between two Cork defenders. The Ennis teenager showed a cool head to hit the ball into the ground and past Nash for one of the quickest hat-tricks you are ever like to see.

Horgan replied with his first from play, but Clare were flying now as a Tony Kelly point from play was followed by a brace of Colin Ryan frees to make it an eight-point game, 3-9 to 1-7.

But Cork refused to panic and grabbed the last four points of the half to halve the deficit. Seamus Harnedy started the scoring sequence after Cronin broke another high ball in his direction. The Cork captain then got on the scoresheet himself, but only after Hawk-Eye was called upon by referee James McGrath.

Horgan slotted another free and added another point from play after Brendan Bugler had been dispossessed as he came away with the ball.
Tony Kelly opened the second half scoring with a brilliant point from under the Hogan Stand, but Clare wouldn't score again until the 53rd minute as Cork reeled off five without reply to regain parity. Horgan got one back from a free before veteran Tom Kelly was introduced in place of the ineffective Daniel Kearney. Half-time substitute Stephen Moylan got in on the scoring act as Cork's comeback continued to gather momentum.

Patrick Horgan sent over his seventh and eighth points from frees to leave the minimum in it before the Glen Rovers sharpshooter levelled from another free which was harshly given against Cian Dillon - who picked up a yellow card for his troubles - after Pa Cronin appeared to lose his footing.

That man O'Donnell steadied Clare with their first score in 16 minutes before Conor Lehane missed a relatively easy chance at the other end. Further points from John Conlon and Ryan (free) had the Banner three clear, 3-13 to 1-16, by the 59th minute, but Cork were level again a minute later when Harnedy first-timed to the net after Patrick Kelly could only parry Lehane's initial shot.

The game was anybody's now and it was Clare who once again seized the initiative with a superb individual goal from Conor McGrath that gave Anthony Nash no chance. Tony Kelly tagged on an inspirational point from midfield and Cork's spirit looked to be finally broken when O'Donnell and Ryan (free) followed up with two more points to make it a six-point game.

But Moylan's goal - following a great catch by Cronin - set the cat among the pigeons again in stoppage-time. As Jimmy Barry-Murphy's men went in search of an equalising goal, Morey relieved the danger and Honan literally walked the ball into the net to ensure the Liam MacCarthy Cup would be returning to Clare for the first time since 1997.

Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, D McInerney, C Dillon; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O'Connor; C Galvin, C Ryan; J Conlon (0-02), T Kelly (0-03), C Ryan (0-07f); P Collins, S O'Donnell (3-03), C McGrath (1-01). Subs: C McInerney for Galvin (52), N O'Connell for Collins (59), D Honan (1-00) for O'Donnell (66), S Morey for T Kelly (70+1).

Cork: A Nash (1-0); S McDonnell, S O'Neill, C O'Sullivan; B Murphy, C Joyce, W Egan; L McLoughlin (0-01), D Kearney; S Harnedy (1-02), C McCarthy, P Cronin (0-01); L O'Farrell, P Horgan (0-09, 7f), C Lehane (0-02). Subs: S White for Egan (23), S Moylan (1-01) for O'Farrell (h.t.), T Kenny for Kearney (39), C Naughton for McCarthy (55), K Murphy for McDonnell (67).

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).