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SHC Final: Clare And Cork Must Do It All Again

clare

Clare 0-25 Cork 3-16

Last Sunday I witnessed what was possibly the most dramatic and exciting game of hurling I have seen in my near thirty years on this planet. Given the occasion and what was at stake the drama that unfolded was truly box office, heart-stopping for a neutral , I can only imagine what it was like for the proud Cork and Clare natives.

On Sunday , Clare and Cork played out a draw inside a packed Croke Park and must now do it all again on September 28th at 5pm. Queue the rush for tickets.

In a high-octane encounter following on from what we have experienced from the championship already this year, Cork who had been second best all afternoon grabbed a point from lead marksman and talisman Patrick Horgan right on the 70 minute mark to put them ahead by a point and with two minutes of injury time signalled the robbery of the century was on the cards. Fans from Cork roared and cameras were on Jimmy Barry Murphy as Cork won a sideline ball way up the field. They cut it wide and the referee gave Clare one last chance with time up. Step forward corner-back Domhnall O’Donovan. He gambled, made his way up field and collected a pass under the Cusack Stand from Nicky O’Connell. Defying the corner-back label he shot straight over the bar, his first ever championship point amid madness and emotion in Croker. Game over , both sides must do it all again.

In a funny spin, Clare although deserving of the victory as they were better all day will be glad of the replay now as it seemed they had left it behind them and Cork who at half time would probably have bitten your hand off mid-way through the second half at even the prospect of a replay were left feeling hard done by walking off the pitch. It was that kind of day. Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash took two penalties and one semi-penalty each with its own controversy and only scored one. In a game where Clare had the better game plan, Cork stayed in touch via those goals. Podge Collins’ (who had a super game) goal attempt miss with ten minutes to go was pivotal. It would have killed Cork off instead he missed the ball and ten seconds later Pa Cronin was firing an unstoppable shot to the back of the Clare net. Cork fans will say “we will never play that bad again” but credit must go to Clare for the way they implemented their game-plan and went man for man rather than the previous sweeper system used and were just that one goal from bringing Liam McCarthy back to Ennis. Testament to them that the three best players on the pitch were all from Clare with the deserving Conor Ryan scooping the man-of-the-match award in a vintage display at HQ. His high fielding and clearances were outstanding and his second half point possibly the score of the year thus far.

Clare started the brighter and always had a few points to spare over Cork and were well worth the three point advantage at half time. One big talking point of the first half came mid way through when off the ball both Shane O’Neill and Darach Honan were involved in an off-the-ball incident. Typically grappling and handbags but O’Neill lifted his hurley and struck Honan across the head. I’m not one for sending people off but the Corkman was very lucky here. It was a dangerous strike to the head and he should have gone. The ball was not there so there was no need for the hurley to be up there either. The umpires would have seen this but I feel perhaps referee Brian Gavin hadn’t the guts to make such a big call so early in a final. Both players were booked. The accuracy of point taking was also very impressive from both teams with wides at a minimum with Cork only hitting three. Clare missed two straight forward frees in the second half from their very reliable free-taker Colin Ryan but he made up for them with deadly accuracy over the rest. The second half took very much the same pattern as the first with Clare on top in every sector but every time they seemed to be about to pull away – Cork scored crucial goals, firstly through the quiet Conor Lehane, then a thunderbolt of a penalty from keeper Anthony Nash and finally captain Pa Horgan with only five minutes left on the clock. That score levelled the game, it was now anyone’s with nerve, steel and guts the formula for success. On this occasion both teams showed this and with Horgan’s sublime bit of skill and point just into injury time, followed by the most unlikely of heroes in O’Donovan we must do it all again. A winner for the GAA and hurling on so many levels last Sunday the hurling world now waits in anticipation for the second replay in successive years to find out who at the end of this fantastic year for hurling takes home the bacon – The Liam McCarthy Cup.

Also a special mention must go to the Waterford minor team who earlier in the day beat Galway to capture their first All-Ireland minor title since 1948. A fantastic achievement and thoroughly deserved , they were outstanding on the day with stars all over the field. On this evidence the future bodes well for the Deise County , another big plus for hurling.

Image courtesy of MSN.COM

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