Munster Minor Hurling Championship Final
Clare 1-19 Cork 0-15
A night remember in Semple Stadium on Tuesday evening as Clare impressively blew away the challenge of Cork to deservedly record a first Munster Minor Hurling title in twelve years, writes Eoin Brennan.
Not since Tony Kelly lifted the TWA Cup in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2011 was there such optimism surrounding a minor collective who created their own piece of history by becoming the first Clare minor side to beat Cork in a final.
It was a far cry from the sea of red in the same venue in 2017 which inevitably inspired the Rebels to a handsome victory, not to mention the 40 point drubbing dished out by Cork only two years ago at minor level.
This victory made up for all that heartache that included last year’s agonisingly penalty defeat to Tipperary that neither side deserved to lose after going toe-to-toe for 80 minutes.
Clare were determined that there would be no need for any extra-time this time around as the Banner upped the ante superbly in the third quarter to carve out an unassailable eight point cushion.
The six survivors from last year’s final in particular were the key protagonists in this command performance as captain Eoghan Gunning defied the laws of physics and velocity with his razor sharp control and pace. James Hegarty’s leadership, composure and skill made him a clear player-of-the-match winner as defensive anchor. Goalkeeper Mark Sheedy’s outstanding fielding and distribution demonstrated his class while his Sixmilebridge club-mate Matthew O’Halloran saved his best performance for the final with not only a two point haul but a relentless work-rate around the centre.
Playmaker Michael Collins led the line superbly up front while Fred Hegarty was sprung off the bench to fire over the insurance point on the hour mark.
Ronan Keane, goalkeeper Eoin Begley, unerring free taker Marc O’Brien and impact sub Harry Doherty’s claw-like aerial superiority all contributed to a brilliant collective display that saw ten different players get on the scoreboard.
Clare won the toss and elected to play with the conditions which initially proved an inspired choice as James Hegarty, Marc O”Brien and Matthew O’Halloran converted the first three points inside four minutes of the throw-in.
Led by talisman Barry Walsh, Cork eventually found their feet to regain full parity entering the second quarter at 0-4 to 0-4 but try as they might, Clare never allowed them to inch in front. Instead, Gunning raided for the point of the season so far with a sublime pick up at the 65 metre line before slaloming his way through to nudge his side back into the ascendency.
With Cork growing into the contest, a war-weary Clare craved the sanctuary of the dressing rooms to regroup but not before a late scare as a failure to clear their lines almost resulted in a Cork goal. Conor McCarthy and Walsh combined to put Brian Lynch through on goal, only for James Hegarty to superbly hook him as he was about to pull the trigger while the rebound ricocheted off the post much to the relief of the Banner who retired the minimum in front at 0-10 to 0-9.
Another wrestle for supremacy was expected for the new half but Clare avoided any dogfight in the 35th minute when Jamie Moylan’s high delivery was caught by Eoin Begley who offloaded to Marc O’Brien to shoot at goal. Fionn Murphy was equal to the angled attempt, only for Begley to perfectly pounce for a volleyed rebound to the net.
It would be the decisive score as an inspired Clare grabbed the next four points through O’Brien, Begley, James Hegarty and Matthew O’Halloran to power eight clear by the two-thirds mark at 1-14 to 0-9 whereas a shellshocked Cork never recovered.
Barry Walsh did try to rally his troops while substitute Jayden Casey and Barry O’Flynn also hit braces. However, with a relentless Clare not allowing a sniff at goal, they were thankful to Marc O’Brien to match Cork’s point scoring heroics in order to keep the Rebels at arm’s length.
With Clare also set to face Cork in the provincial Under 20 equivalent next Monday, it was the perfect start to what hopefully could be an even more memorable summer in Saffron and Blue.
Clare: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge); Ronan Keane (Killanena), Eoghan Gunning (Broadford), Conor Rynne (Inagh-Kilnamona); Jamie Moylan (Cratloe), James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Evan Price (Clarecastle); Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge); Jack Mescall (Inagh-Kilnamona); Sean Arthur (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Michael Collins (Clonlara), Ronan Kilroy (Banner); Eoin Ogie Fanning (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Marc O’Brien (Cratloe), Eoin Begley (Clonlara)
Subs: Harry Doherty (Clarecastle) for Fanning (HT), Fred Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Kilroy (47), Mark O’Connor (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for Mescall (57), Michael Power (Newmarket-on-Fergus) for Begley (59, inj), Daire Neville (Cratloe) for Arthur (63)
Scorers: Marc O’Brien (0-8, 7f); Eoin Begley (1-1); Matthew O’Halloran, James Hegarty (2f) (0-2 each); Eoin Oige Fanning, Eoghan Gunning, Jack Mescall, Sean Arthur, Michael Collins, Fred Hegarty (0-1 each)
Cork: Fionn Murphy (Killeagh); Oier O’Callaghan (Liscarroll Churchtown Gaels), Darragh McCarthy (Passage), Carthaigh Cronin (Midleton); Cillian O’Callaghan (Dungourney), David O’Leary (Ballincollig), Johnny Galvin (Éire Óg); James O’Leary (Lisgoold), Conor McCarthy (Glen Rovers); Johnny Murphy (Dromina), Zack Biggane (Charleville), Barry Walsh (Killeagh); Brian Lynch (Youghal), Barry O’Flynn (Sarsfields), Finn O’Brien (Erins Own)
Subs: Jayden Casey (Youghal) for Lynch (38), Ronan Dooley (Douglas) for O’Brien (46), Ben Walsh (Killeagh) for McCarthy (47), Sean O’Callaghan (Aghada) for Cronin (50), Conor McCarthy (St Finbarr’s) for Murphy (53)
Scorers: Barry Walsh (0-9, 5f); Jayden Casey, Barry O’Flynn (0-2 each); James O’Leary, Zack Biggane (0-1 each)
Referee: Alan Tierney (Tipperary)