Rebels dismiss Clare challenge

Cork 0-20 Clare 0-14

Joe Deane put on a hurling master class as All-Ireland champions Cork hurdled over Clare’s challenge in a 0-20 to 0-14 win at Semple Stadium today.

In front of 40,339 spectators, the Killeagh attacker scored 0-09 (6f) to steer the Rebels into the Munster SHC final.

A clearly motivated Clare, who lost by a single point to the Rebels in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, had moved into a 0-06 to 0-02 lead after 10 minutes’ play in Thurles.

But Cork, minus Ben O’Connor (groin), rallied with scores from Jerry O’Connor and Tom Kenny to turn around with a 0-10 to 0-08 buffer.

Cork hit the first six points of the second half to canter clear. Niall Gilligan (0-06) kept Clare in touch but the classy Deane bossed the latter stages to keep up manager John Allen’s unbeaten record in championship fare.

Since taking over from Donal O’Grady, Allen has now overseen six straight championship wins for Cork, who looked in ominously good form this afternoon.

This was a clear statement of intent from Allen’s charges, as even without the mercurial Ben O’Connor in their starting line-up – he failed a late fitness test – Cork looked a force to be reckoned with.

Their bid for three All-Irelands on the trot is up and running and Cork’s class of 2006, on this evidence, stand a good chance of joining the county’s treble heroes of 1978.

They got the ideal start when centre forward Niall McCarthy sprinter clear and pointed after only 23 seconds. Clare replied before the minute was up with Barry Nugent firing over.

A good spell for the Banner men, whose boss Anthony Daly was in his 12th championship match on the sideline, saw them move 0-06 to 0-02 clear. Gilligan hit two frees, Tony Carmody – with two points from play – and Nugent again raised a white flag, sandwiching an excellent score from Cork full-forward Brian Corcoran, who had a fascinating duel with Brian Lohan.

Cork took their time in replying – enigmatic Clare stopper Davy Fitzgerald reeled away in delight after he produced a stunning double save. Deane’s initial effort was swatted away by a diving Fitzgerald and Corcoran’s follow-up was also pushed away by the Clare number one. Midfielder Kenny blazed the resultant ’65 wide as Clare cheers rung out around the ground.

Nonetheless, Cork soon whittled away the four-point deficit with some smart hurling. Kenny, with a breathtaking solo effort, and Ronan Curran both got off the mark. Gilligan answered back but Jerry O’Connor soon levelled at 0-07 apiece.

Gilligan’s fourth free kept Clare ticking yet Cork seized their chance, striking over points from O’Connor and Deane (0-02 (1f)) to move two clear before the interval.

It was all Cork in the early minutes of the second half. Clare had to wait until the 49th-minute before adding to their tally through the ever-ready Gilligan.

Points from Corcoran, Deane (0-03 (2f)), O’Connor and the lively Kenny raced the Rebels into a double scores lead – 0-16 to 0-08.

Clare really need a goal or two at this stage. Points from Gilligan and Alan Markham reduced the gap to six, but an even ending with the final eight points being shared saw the Banner men bow out of the Munster race.

Cork substitute Neil Ronan, who came on for a few minutes for a bloodied nosed Deane, pointed and man of the match Deane added three more to his haul, including an awesome score from the left sideline in which he left two men for dead.

Clare kept going with Gilligan (free), Carmody, substitutes Daithi O’Connell and Jonathan Clancy tagging on scores, but there was no denying Cork, who gave Ben O’Connor a late run-out, a morale-boosting win.

CORK: D O Cusack; P Mulcahy (capt), D O'Sullivan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran (0-01), S Og O hAailpin; T Kenny (0-02), J O'Connor (0-04); T McCarthy, N McCarthy (0-01), C O'Connor; K Murphy (Sarsfields), B Corcoran (0-02), J Deane (0-9 (6f)).

Subs used: N Ronan (0-01) for B Corcoran, W Sherlock for P Mulcahy, B O'Connor for K Murphy.

CLARE: D Fitzgerald; J O'Grady, B Lohan, F Lohan; B O'Connell, S McMahon (capt), J Quinn; T Griffin, C Lynch; D McMahon, T Carmody (0-03), F Lynch: B Nugent (0-02), A Markham (0-01), N Gilligan (0-6 (6f)).

Subs used: D Quinn for F Lynch, J Clancy (0-01) for B Nugent, D O'Rourke for D McMahon, D O'Connell (0-01) for D Quinn, P Donnellan for C Lynch.

Refere: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).

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