Cork’s bench presses as Clare crack under the pressure at Cusack Park

Steven Sherlock and Mark Cronin both make vital contributions after coming on

All-Ireland SFC Group 3: Clare 1-11 Cork 1-13

When the need was greatest, it was Cork’s experienced reinforcements that edged them over the line to get an early leg up in the All-Ireland series in Cusack Park, Ennis.

Having trailed by as much as six points, hosts Clare’s rousing second-half fightback finally helped them regain parity for the first time by the 57th minute at 1-8 apiece. Craving a response, it was the Rebels’ fresh legs from the bench that proved decisive as John Cleary’s side rallied with five of the next seven points, including a brace each for substitutes Steven Sherlock and Mark Cronin to prevail in gritty fashion.

Exacting revenge for their Munster semi-final reverse to Clare 12 months previously, Cork merited this opening victory as they never trailed at any stage of the contest.

Indeed, with Ulster champions Donegal being welcomed to Cork in a fortnight’s time, Cork couldn’t have asked for a better start to both the game and the group as a whole


The opening quarter was a clear case of contrasting finishing as four early home misses, three of which fell agonisingly short of the target, were clinically punished by the visitors as an opening trio of unanswered points for Conor Corbett, Colm O’Callaghan and Brian Hurley was accentuated by a decisive goal.

Coming only minutes after an incisive Ikem Ugwueru run and centre across the square yielded nothing, Cork quickly countered in the 16th minute when Colm O’Callaghan’s ball over the top was cleverly flicked by Seán Powter over advancing goalkeeper Stephen Ryan.

Trailing by 1-4 to 0-1, the home side did kick three of the next four points, all from Emmet McMahon frees. But it was only damage limitation as a surprisingly sleepy Banner could only muster four placed balls, while on the flipside, the Rebels entire tally stemmed from play at 1-6 to 0-4 by half-time.

With a chance to regroup, Clare were a far more recognisable side on the resumption as they looked to quickly make up lost ground with a pair of Daniel Walsh points within four minutes of the restart.

That said, Cork passed up what was arguably a defining goal chance in the 38th minute when a Chris Óg Jones counterattack was centred to the unmarked Brian O’Driscoll whose flick cannoned off the crossbar, much to the relief of the hosts.

That miss was magnified when only five minutes later, Clare did raise a green flag at the other end when Manus Doherty made a superb slaloming run down the left channel. He then passed inside to Aaron Griffin to place a ground shot to the bottom left corner of the Cork net to slash the arrears to just the minimum at 1-7 to 1-6.

Placed balls through Emmet McMahon and Ciarán Downes then levelled matters entering the final quarter.

That was as good as it got for the hosts, who had expended so much energy playing catch-up that they had little left in the tank to prevent Cork’s artillery from the bench.

CLARE: S Ryan; M Doherty, C Brennan, R Lanigan; I Ugwueru, C Rouine, A Sweeney; D Bohannon, B McNamara; G Murray, D Coughlan (0-1), D Walsh (0-2); E McMahon (0-5, 5f), A Griffin (1-0), C Downes (0-2, 1f, 1 45). Subs: M Garry for Sweeney (33 mins, inj); E O’Connor for Murray (52); J Stack (0-1) for Downes (58); J McGann for Griffin (67); M McInerney for Rouine (73).

CORK: C Kelly; K Flahive, D O’Mahony, T Walsh (0-1); M Shanley, R Maguire, M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Callaghan (0-1); P Walsh (0-2), S Powter (1-0), B O’Driscoll; C Óg Jones (0-1), C Corbett (0-1), B Hurley (0-3, 1f). Subs: M Cronin (0-2, 1f) for Powter (56 mins); S Sherlock (0-2, 1f) for Jones, R Deane for Corbett (both 59); E McSweeney for Hurley (67); J O’Rourke for P Walsh (74).

Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary).