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James Organ of Clare in action against Eoin Guinane and Peter O'Shea of Cork during their Munster Minor Championship Semi-Final at Pairc Ui Rinn. Photograph by John Kelly

HURLING: Munster Final awaits for Clare’s major minors

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Munster Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Clare 2-17 Cork 1-17

FROM the nadir of last year’s pummelling to the zenith of a near flawless collective display, the wheel had certainly turned full circle for Clare and Cork as the Banner deservedly powered into a first Munster Minor Hurling decider since 2019 in Páirc Uí Rinn on Tuesday evening, writes Eoin Brennan.
A 43 point turnaround wasn’t even the main headline grabbing act as Clare dethroned the holders with an unprecedented brand of professionalism, efficiency and most significantly an ice-cool nerve to never deviate or revert from the meticulous passing game that left Cork chasing shadows for the majority.
Everyone played their part as the Banner rolled with the punches of being sucker-punched by a controversial late first half goal that wiped out their advantage, only to come out swinging once more when Cian Neylon fired home a second Clare goal after only 90 seconds of the new half. Indeed, Clare were the ones consistently setting the pace and never trailed at any stage.
On the flip side, Cork, whether just lulled into a false sense of security following last year’s lopsided victory, looked like a side expecting things to happen for them but ended up desperately trying to force the issue, resulting in an inordinate 21 wides.
Those wides only seemed to fuel Clare’s belief even further as a four point burst from chief threats Oisin Whelan (2), James Organ and Jack O’Neill was bolstered by a clinical goal in the 21st minute when Riain McNamara’s long delivery broke perfectly for Whelan to unleash a bullet to the bottom right corner of the net at 1-7 to 0-4.
To their credit, Cork did incrementally inch their way back into contention for the remainder of the half but Ross O’Sullivan appeared to be in the square long before Peter O’Shea’s delivery landed to flick to the net at 1-8 to 1-8 on the half hour mark.
Despite prolonged protestations from the Clare defence and sideline, referee Nicky Barry didn’t even go in to consult with his umpires. Instead, a defiant Clare took matters into their own hands as Michael Collins immediately responded with a point which again would be cancelled out by the break at 1-9 apiece. Cue Cian Neylon’s second half kickstarter that was followed by four of the next five points from the unerring Whelan (2), the dominant Organ and Collins once more at 2-13 to 1-10 by the 37th minute.
Clare maintained that push to match anything Cork could throw at them but with the clock ticking inexorably towards the hour mark, the home side did manage to get within striking range following a three point burst at 2-16 to 1-17 entering injury-time.
Goalkeeper Mark Sheedy also had to deny a Ross O’Sullivan shot but while every Banner supporter were chewing their nails amidst an exceedingly tense finale, the Clare players bravely kept control of possession at the back with a stream of short passes instead of launching any long relieving clearances that would have only come back at them again.
It had to take Oisin Whelan to earn and convert a free from 65 metres for Clare to finally hear the sound of the final whistle as they teed up a juicy Munster Final rematch against first round opponents Tipperary next Wednesday (May 11).

Clare: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge); Eoghan Gunning (Broadford), Fionan Treacy (Éire Óg), John Cahill (Clooney-Quin); Sean McMahon (Smith O’Brien’s), James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Riain McNamara (Cratloe); Piaras Ó Sé (Ruan), Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara); James Organ (Corofin), Jack O’Neill (Clooney-Quin), Michael Collins (Clonlara); Cian Neylon (Kilmaley), Oisin Whelan (Clarecastle), Sam Scanlan (Clooney-Quin)
Subs: Dylan Keane Hayes (Kilmaley) for Collins (46), Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge) for Stritch (54, inj), Fred Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona) for O’Neill (63, inj), Fionn Hayes (Sixmilebridge) for Scanlan (65)

Scorers: Oisin Whelan (1-8, 6f, 1’65); James Organ (0-4); Cian Neylon (1-1); Jack O’Neill, Michael Collins (0-2 each)

Cork: Daniel O’Connell (Dromina); Eoin Guinane (Valley Rovers), James O’Brien (Fermoy), Denis Cashman (Bride Rovers); Matthew Woods (Valley Rovers), Daniel Murnane (Carrigtwohill), Tadhg O’Leary Hayes (Midleton); Peter O’Shea (Erin’s Own), Ben Walsh (Killeagh); Adam O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), James Murray (Youghal), Timmy Wilk (Cobh); Jayden Casey (Youghal), Sean O’Donoghue (St Catherine’s), Ross O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh).
Subs: John Wigginton Barrett (St Finbarr’s) for Casey (42), Oisin Fitzgerald (St Catherine’s) for Murray (47), Dylan McCarthy (Killeagh) for Walsh (52)

Scorers: Ross O’Sullivan (1-4, 1f, 2’65); Adam O’Sullivan (0-4); Sean O’Donoghue, Timmy Wilk, Peter O’Shea (0-2 each); James Murray, Ben Walsh, Daniel Murnane (0-1 each)

Referee: Nicky Barry (Waterford)

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