KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
CORK won the battle for the two league points but lost the war and a shot at promotion after this intense clash with Clare at Cusack Park on Sunday.
The visiting Rebels knew that they had to win this Division 2 South match by four points or more to guarantee their spot in the league semi-finals, but in the end they came up short.
Instead they now face a relegation semi-final against Westmeath that Cork must win to keep their Division 2 status.
There was little to separate the Munster duo in a gripping contest under the summer sun in Ennis and they were level 10 times, but Cork never held the four-point lead that they needed.
As they chased the win they wanted, their hopes were dented by sub Brian Hurley’s red card after he picked up two yellows in quick succession.
While this Cork win reversed the recent trend of Clare victories in this fixture, it also means that they will head into the relegation fixture off the back of wins against Laois and Clare.
Cork did outscore the home side by four points to one in the opening seven minutes. Points from Luke Connolly (free), Tadhg Corkery, Paul Walsh and John O’Rourke sandwiched David Tubridy’s terrific long-range opener for the home side.
Disaster struck for Cork in the eighth minute, however. After Gavin Cooney sent Tubridy through he was pulled down in the square by Daniel O’Mahony, and Clare were awarded a penalty. Tubridy, who would finish with 1-8, hauled himself off the ground, stepped up to take the penalty and sent Micheál Martin the wrong way to level the game, 0-4 to 1-1.
From here to the first-half water break Clare called the shots. Tubridy scored the next three points for his side and Gavin Cooney added another, with Kevin O’Driscoll replying for Cork who trailed 1-5 to 0-5 at the first-half water break.
Cork emerged a transformed team for the second quarter. Cathail O’Mahony, just on for the injured Ciarán Sheehan, pointed with his first touch. There was a directness and energy to Cork now. John O’Rourke hit his second before O’Mahony levelled the game, 0-8 to 1-5. Three more Cork points in this purple-patch from O’Mahony, Connolly and Sean White saw Cork move 0-11 to 1-5 ahead. This was Cork’s most dominant period of the game, but crucially Clare finished the half well and outscored Cork by four points to one to trail by just one at the break, 0-12 to 1-8.
Again, in the third quarter there was little to separate the two and they were level at the second water break, 0-16 to 1-13. The tension, drama and excitement rose in a pulsating final quarter as Cork pushed for the four-point win they needed. Twice, they moved three points in front helped by scores from subs Hurley and O’Mahony, but Clare were never too far behind, helped by frees from Tubridy and Eoin Cleary.
Hurley’s red card left Cork a man down inside the last ten minutes and while they did enough, thanks to John O’Rourke’s late winner, to get the victory, it wasn’t enough to save Cork’s promotion hopes.
Cork: C O’Mahony 0-5 (1 45), J O’Rourke 0-4, L Connolly (3f) 0-4 each; T Corkery, B Hurley 0-2 each; P Walsh, S White, I Maguire, K O’Driscoll, M Taylor 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 1-8 (1-0 pen, 6f); E Cleary 0-4 (2f); G Cooney, C O’Connor, D O’Neill, P Lillis, D Bohannan, A Griffin 0-1 each.
Cork: Micheál Aodh Martin; Sean Powter, Daniel O’Mahony, Kevin Flahive; Tadhg Corkery, Sean Meehan, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh; Sean White, Ruairi Deane, Kevin O’Driscoll; John O’Rourke, Ciarán Sheehan, Luke Connolly. Subs: C Kiely for D O’Mahony (10, inj), C O’Mahony for C Sheehan (22, inj), B Hurley for S White (43), M Collins for P Walsh (43), K O’Donovan for T Corkery (51), P Ring for Powter (51, inj), D Gore for L Connolly (65).
Clare: Stephen Ryan; Ciarán Russell, Cillian Brennan, Kevin Hartnett; Cian O’Dea, Sean Collins, Daniel Walsh; Darren O’Neill, Cathal O'Connor; Pearse Lillis, Eoin Cleary, Darragh Bohannan; Gavin Cooney, David Tubridy, Joe McGann. Subs: Dean Ryan for K Hartnett (22, inj), C O’Hanafin for D Ryan (ht), E McMahon for D Walsh (53), A Griffin for J McGann (55), K Sexton for G Cooney (55), C Murray for D O’Neill (67).
Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary).