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Clare manager Colm Collins. Photograph by John Kelly.

Clare Claim 2019 McGrath Cup Title

Gordon Kelly’s goal proved the difference between the sides as Clare clinched a three point win over Cork in the McGrath Cup final.

The veteran defender saw his long range effort find its way to the top right corner in the eighth minute of the contest as it dipped wickedly under Chris Kelly’s crossbar.

Cork started brightest and a fine score with the outside of the left boot from Cian Kiely was the opening score of the game with the Rebels facing the conditions in the first period.

Kelly then struck for his goal, and this was swiftly followed by a good long distance free from Cathal O’Connor to leave Clare 1-1 to 0-1 in front after 12 minutes.

Both sides were struggling with conditions as a heavy mist spread in from the Atlantic, but it was Cork who landed the next two scores, with Stephen Sherlock pointing twice from frees to leave just the minimum between them heading towards the half-time whistle.

Clare came storming back into the game and he punished the Cork defence for a foul on captain Gary Brennan by slotting over another long range free.

Brennan himself was on target just before the break, as he was on the end of a good team move to split the posts from 45 metres out to leave Clare 1-3 to 0-3 ahead at the break.

It was Brennan who opened the second half scoring as he powered down the right wing before curling over a superb effort.

Keelan Sexton was introduced as a substitute at half time , and he landed the first of his four points with a fine long distance free to send Clare five points clear.

Then came the Cork comeback. Five in a row from the Rebels in a five minute spell saw them draw level with two each from Mark Collins and Damien Gore before Eoghan McSweeney levelled the sides with 20 minutes left to play.

Cork then lost midfielder James Fitzpatrick to a black card, and the Banner started to make the numerical advantage count. Sexton hit another free between the posts from distance but Peter Kelleher restored parity moments later with a fine point from play.

The last three scores all came from Clare, as Sexton angled over the lead point before slotted yet another free to give his side a two point cushion heading into the closing stages.

The icing on the cake came in injury time as Gary Brennan found Dean Ryan in space, and the Eire Óg man fisted over from close range to ensure a winning start to 2019 for Colm Collins men on a 1-9 to 0-9 score line.

They now turn their attentions to the National League opener against Donegal in Cusack Park in two weeks time.

Clare: Eamonn Tubridy (Doonbeg; Kevin Harnett (Meelick), Cillian Brennan (Clondegad), Gordon Kelly (St Joseph’s Miltown); Dean Ryan (Eire Óg), Aaron Fitzgerald (Eire Óg), Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis); Darragh Bohannon (Shannon Gaels), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora), David O’Halloran (Eire Óg), Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Gavin Cooney (Eire Óg), Gary Brennan (Clondegad) (c), Kieran Malone (St Joseph’s Miltown).

Subs: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for O’Halloran, Sean O’Donoghue (Cooraclare) for Cooney, Sean Collins (Cratloe) for Coughlan, Gearoid O’Brien (Kilrush Shamrocks) for Malone, David Tubridy (Doonbeg) for Cooney.

Scorers: Keelan Sexton (0-4, 3f), Gordon Kelly (1-0), Gary Brennan (0-2), Cathal O’Connor (0-2, 2f), Dean Ryan (0-1).

Cork: Chris Kelly (Eire Óg); Sam Ryan (St Finbarrs), Peter Murphy (Bandon), Aidan Browne (Newmarket); Liam O’Donovan (Clonakilty), Tom Clancy (Clonakilty), Steven Cronin (Nemo Rangers) (c); James Fitzpatrick (Carbery Rangers), Ronan O’Toole (Eire Óg); John O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), Eoghan McSweeney (Knocknagree), Cian Kiely (Ballincollig); Mark Collins (Castlehaven), Peter Kelleher (Kilmichael), Stephen Sherlock (St Finbarrs).

Subs: Damien Gore (Kilmacbea) for Sherlock, Nathan Walsh (Douglas) for Ryan, Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers) for O’Rourke, Blake Murphy (Vincents) for Cronin, Tadgh Corkery (Cill na Martra) for Kiely.

Scorers: Mark Collins (0-3, 2f), Damien Gore (0-2, 1f), Stephen Sherlock (0-2, 2f), Eoghan McSweeney and Peter Kelleher (0-1 each).

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)

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