Munster SHC: Rebels ease past Clare

May 27, 2007
Cork proved far too strong for Clare as they coasted to a 1-18 to 1-11 Munster SHC victory at windswept Semple Stadium. The Rebel County were never really pushed to the pin of their collars as they booked a mouth-watering penultimate-round meeting with Waterford. In truth, however, this match did little to whet the appetite for this year's senior hurling championship. The winners led from start to finish and were never really troubled, though Clare did come at them with an unanswered run of 1-3 midway through the second half. A hamstring injury to Jerry O'Connor has taken some of the gloss off Cork's win but, in general, Gerald McCarthy will be delighted with what he saw today. The result is all that counts and Cork will improve when they square up to the Decies. The first half never really took off but the Rebels led by five points at the interval despite having played within themselves. Clare goalkeeper Philly Brennan was called into action early on and he did well to deal with Ben O'Connor's dangerous sideline puck. At the other end, Jonathan Clancy fired a goal opportunity just wide before Niall McCarthy opened the scoring with a Cork point in the second minute. Rebel captain Kieran Murphy sent the next effort wide and his namesake from Sarsfields was unfortunate when his improvised attempt came back off the crossbar after Brennan had batted the sliothar back into the danger area. In the seventh minute, Kieran Murphy (Erin's Own) doubled the Leeside lead but McCarthy soon added Cork's third wide after good approach play from midfield pairing Jerry O'Connor and Tom Kenny. Ben O'Connor popped over a free and his twin hit one from play to make it 0-4 to no score with less than nine minutes left. A huge Brennan puck-out culminated in a tidy Clancy minor to open the Banner's account and Clare had wides from Brendan Bulger and Colm Lynch before Niall Gilligan stretched their tally with a converted free. Barry Nugent reduced the gap to the minimum with Clare's third successive score at the end of the first quarter but McCarthy clipped a superb point over his shoulder from the left wing to make it 0-5 to 0-3 with 19 minutes on the clock. A minute later, full forward Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields) made it double scores when he registered the outstanding score of the match, placing one high between the posts from a ridiculously difficult angle and imposing distance. Joe Deane routinely opened his account from a 25th-minute free and the No.15 repeated the dose a few minutes later. The atmosphere had gone completely flat by the time Ben O'Connor twice added to Cork's wides tally and the squandermania was infectious as Gilligan missed a comparatively simple free in the last minute of the first half. Deane grabbed his third consecutive score from another free in injury time and Andrew Quinn scored for Clare seconds from the short whistle. Having played into the wind, Cork led comfortably at the break, without having to over-exert themselves. A cheesy grin all over the face of Ben O'Connor after he had missed an easy chance told the entire story of the first half. It was all too easy for the holders, who led 0-9 to 0-4. Clare had two early second-half wides before John Gardiner registered for Cork with a magnificent point from a free, all of 70 metres out on the right. Four minutes after the resumption, championship debutant Pa Cronin effectively finished the game as a contest: the No.12 gathered a delightful reverse pass from Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields) and slammed the ball past Brennan to the Clare net. When Kenny pointed from play, unflustered Cork led by 1-11 to 0-4 with half an hour left. Cronin added a point and substitute Declan O'Rourke got Clare's first point of the half on 44 minutes. With Clare's token tackles starting to look more and more lightweight, Murphy of Sarsfields pointed after a truly magnificent flick and turn from Ben O'Connor. Nugent replied with a good Clare point and Gilligan then demonstrated great strength to hold off Sean Og O hAilpin and blast the ball to the top left hand corner of Donal Og Cusack's net. Lynch had given the assist for Clare's first championship goal against the Rebels in a decade. Nugent continued the revival with his third point and Cork's defence was caught napping when Gilligan cleverly played a crafty free in to the unmarked Andrew Quinn, who split the posts to leave only five points in it. The Rebels had led by eleven points only moments earlier but the lead looked vulnerable on 50 minutes - 1-13 to 1-8. Clare's brave rally stuttered when Quinn and Gilligan recorded wides and O hAilpin made them pay when he broke forward to record a settling Cork point. Nugent then got his fourth point from as many tries but Ben O'Connor cancelled that one out with his second converted free. The breeze had swirled around to support Clare in the second half also but, with twelve minutes remaining, Cork's lead still looked reasonably comfortable: 1-15 to 1-9. Moments after Jerry O'Connor was laid out by a high challenge, Ben exacted retribution when he sent over an excellent point - his first from play. Jerry left the field almost immediately with a hamstring injury that makes him a major doubt for the provincial semi-final clash with Waterford in three weeks' time. Ben O'Connor's free put eight between the teams with less than five minutes remaining and substitute Bernard Gaffney responded from a Clare free. Substitute Cathal Naughton almost added a second Cork goal at the end of a searing solo run but Brian O'Connell was on the goal-line to block his shot. Ben O'Connor blasted a close-range free between the posts and out of the ground and McCarthy hit a post in injury time before Alan Markham converted a '65' to put a little more respectability on the scoreboard from Clare's perspective. Cork are comfortably through to the last four in Munster, while Clare go crashing into the qualifiers. Cork - D Óg Cusack; B Murphy, D O'Sullivan, C O'Connor; J Gardiner (0-1), R Curran, S Óg Ó hAilpín (0-1); T Kenny (0-1), J O'Connor (0-1); Kieran Murphy (Erin's Own 0-1), N McCarthy (0-2), P Cronin (1-1); B O'Connor (0-5), Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields 0-2), J Deane (0-3). Subs - N Ronan for K Murphy (Sarsfields), C Naughton for Deane, K Hartnett for J O'Connor. Clare - P Brennan; G O'Grady, B O'Connell, F Lohan; A Markham (0-1), B Bugler, G Quinn; B Bugler, K Dilleen; J Clancy (0-1), F Lynch, N Gilligan (1-1), A Quinn (0-2), C Lynch, B Nugent (0-4). Subs - B Gaffney (0-1) for F Lynch, D O'Rourke (0-1) for Clancy, C Ryan for C Lynch, D Quinn for Ryan. Referee - P O'Connor (Limerick).

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