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Ref justice for Cork as Clare prevail

Shane Stapleton reflects on Clare’s huge Munster SHC win over Clare at Cusack Park as the Rebels just came up short

Shane Stapleton reflects on Clare’s huge Munster SHC win over Clare at Cusack Park as the Rebels just came up short.

Diarmuid Ryan finished the game with the ball, decided it with a long-range strike, as Clare won a dramatic clash with Cork.

The Banner dominated for long spells but the Rebels showed a grit to claw their way back in, before ultimately losing at the death.

Tony Kelly’s two goals — the second from a penalty — provided a platform for the hosts, while Declan Dalton and Patrick Horgan raised green flags for the visitors.

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Johnny Murphy was the man in the middle, and one must question the appointment given the result of this game was absolutely crucial to his native Limerick.

Had the Rebels won, then Tipp could have knocked the Treaty out in the later game.

That is not to suggest that Murphy did anything untoward, but it just isn’t a good look.

There were times in the second half when Cork might have had frees — one to Tim O’Mahony late on stands out, and a questionable Ger Millerick v Kelly moment — and there’s little doubting that there will be frustration on Leeside.

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In truth, Clare should never have been in bother once they had pushed eight points clear during the second half, but they slipped out of the game for a sustained period, as did the atmosphere.

It was as if they had fallen asleep, and Cork slowly if unconvincingly worked their way back in.

Seamus Harnedy almost tapped a long ball into he net as Eibhear Quilligan strangely waited on his line, and then Dalton knocked in a rebound after Horgan’s poor penalty went at the ‘keeper.

By hook or by crook, the hosts got over the line. Ryan stood up late on to knock over key scores, and a Munster final awaits.

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Conor Cahalane scored a brilliant goal in the first half, one that screamed of a new Cork where the extra pass and composure is encouraged.

Given the St Finbarr’s man’s last appearance at Cusack Park had ended with a red card against Ballyea, this was a big boon for the player from a personal point of view.

Unfortunately his first half was full of ups and downs. Twice, Cahalane was blocked down poorly when striking for the posts, but the other Cork forwards also struggled after early dominance.

Adam Hogan and Rory Hayes seemed to walk out the world of ball during the first half, with Horgan and Harnedy fading after quick starts.

Horgan couldn’t quite get a limb to a ball early on which he eventually threw over the line, and it was unusual to see his placed-ball misses and some mistakes from open play.

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Clare recovered from Cahalane’s goal and, but for some poor wides, could have led by more than five points — 1-13 to 1-8 — at the interval.

Tony Kelly had a point on the board after 15 seconds, and his side created 24 scoring chances to 15 up to that stage.

The Rebels had actually edged the positive turnovers by then but couldn’t keep Kelly down, found the powerful running of Ryan Taylor, Aidan McCarthy and Shane O’Donnell hard to handle, and struggled with target men Mark Rodgers and Peter Duggan.

The biggest blow of the half was a painful-looking injury suffered by Conor Cleary, and he had the look of a man whose championship may now be over.

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Kelly’s goal before the interval was a thing of beauty. A high ball in that broke, with the red sea parting, the Ballyea man with one touch, and then batting to the net.

A majestic moment that sent the crowd wild, and Kelly was more than entitled to turn to the crowd and lose his mind as they lost theirs.

He hit 1-4 in that half, and credit must go to Niall O’Leary who won some ball against the head.

Brian Lohan has more options just now than Pat Ryan, and more vibrant quality in attack.

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Ryan took over most of his forward line — including Dalton, which seemed unusual — but left Harnedy on the field, with the St Ita’s man struggling to win ball.

Horgan misfired for spells but was excellent late on. His penalty had been struck poorly, and so too his shot that did find the net to spark the revival, but Quilligan got his angles wrong.

Ryan has much to ponder heading into their final game against Limerick, while Lohan knows his team is gathering real moment after a third win on the trot.

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