Munster Under 20 Hurling Championship Final
Cork 1-23 Clare 1-21
A late twist in the tale saw Cork fire five of the last six points to deny Clare a provisional Minor and Under 20 double in the TUS Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, writes Eoin Brennan.
Having unearthed a superb eight point turnaround of their own at the beginning of the second half including a Sean Rynne goal, the Banner soared four clear by the turn of the final quarter at 1-17 to 1-13. However, they simply couldn’t sustain that level of intensity and would actually only score two points in the final 18 minutes as a never-say-die Cork inevitably came storming back into the contest.
Ben Cunningham’s influence was decisive as he score three and set up another for Tadhg O’Connell as the Rebels turned the tide to cement their third Munster Under 20 crown in four seasons.
A brilliant opportunist goal from captain Michael Mullins was the crucial score of the opening period as Cork established a 1-11 to 0-10 interval lead. The damage could have been much worse, only for goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan and corner-back Ian MacNamara to repel successive efforts from Ben O’Connor and Colin Walsh just before the break.
MacNamara would heroically come to his side’s rescue with another goal-line clearance on the restart but this time it was to protect Clare’s cushion after a 1-4 blitz had powered them 1-14 to 1-12 clear.
Inspired by Keith Smyth who scored two and also played in Sean Rynne for a 35th minute goal, the Banner’s purple patch eventually extended to a four point lead by the turn for home.
Indeed, a gritty second half display ensured that Terence Fahy’s side still clung to a three point cushion entering the final ten minutes. However, with Cork upping the ante and the scores drying up at the other end, Clare simply couldn’t hold out as Cunningham and Co. patiently hit the front at the perfect time to garner a 22nd title and tee up an All-Ireland Final showdown with either Wexford or Offaly in a fortnight’s time.
Cork: Brion Saunderson (Midleton); Shane Kingston (Ballinora), Mark Howell (Douglas), Darragh O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig); Tadhg O’Connell (Ballincollig), Ben O’Connor (St Finbarr’s), James Dwyer (Ballincollig); Sean Daly (Randal Óg), Michael Mullins (Whitechurch); Diarmuid Healy (Lisgoold), David Cremin (Midleton), William Buckley (St Finbarr’s); Ross O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh), Colin Walsh (Kanturk), Ben Cunningham (St Finbarr’s)
Subs: Timmy Wilk (Cobh) for Daly (HT), Adam O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig) for Cremin (32, inj), Jack Leahy (Dungourney) for Walsh (36),
Scorers: Ben Cunningham (0-8, 5f, 1’65); William Buckley (f), Diarmuid Healy, Tadhg O’Connell (0-3 each); Michael Mullins (1-0); Colin Walsh, Ross O’Sullivan (0-2 each); Adam O’Sullivan, Jack Leahy (0-1 each)
Clare: Aaron Shanahan (Tulla); Oisin Clune (Feakle), John Conneally (Clooney-Quin), Ian MacNamara (Killanena); Keelan Hartigan (Scariff), Oran Cahill (Éire Óg), Daithi Lohan (Wolfe Tones); Sean Rynne (Inagh-Kilnamona), Jack O’Neill (Clooney-Quin); Senan Dunford (Tubber), Gearoid Sheedy (Ogonnelloe), Oisin O’Donnell (Crusheen); David Kennedy (Sixmilebridge), Keith Smyth (Killanena), Patrick Crotty (Scariff)
Subs: Niall O’Farrell (Broadford) for Sheedy (HT), Colm Cleary (O’Callaghan’s Mills) for Kennedy (39), Diarmaid Stritch (Clonlara) for Dunford (54, inj), Jarlath Collins (Éire Óg) for Clune (59), Conor Whelan (Whitegate) for O’Donnell (59, inj)
Scorers: Keith Smyth (0-11, 9f); Sean Rynne (1-1); Oisin O’Donnell (0-3); Patrick Crotty, Jack O’Neill (0-2 each); Keelan Hartigan, Niall O’Farrell (0-1 each)
Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)