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Clare’s Aaron Griffin in action against Kevin Flahive of Cork. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Late Cork surge rains on Clare’s opening parade

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McGrath Cup Group B Round 1
Cork 2-14 Clare 0-8

Holders Cork eventually possessed too much experience as they overpowered hosts Clare coming down the final straight to put one foot back in what would be a sixth successive McGrath Cup Final in Clarecastle GAA Astro on Wednesday evening. Springing five of last year’s championship side from the bench in the second period, the Rebels produced a remarkable 14 point turnaround in the final 20 minutes including 1-5 from substitute duo Mark Cronin (1-3) and Chris Óg Jones (0-2).
In contrast to eleven Cork survivors from last year’s Munster Senior Championship Semi-Final showdown, a new-look Clare only possessed five of the 20 used in that memorable victory as Mark
Fitzgerald’s reign finally got the mark in earnest.
Large injuries to Emmet McMahon and Mark McInerney were frustrating enough besides losing Cillian Rouine in the warm-up which ensured debuts for Darren O’Brien and Josh Guyler in addition to former Westmeath player Gavin Murray and Kildysart’s Diarmuid O’Donnell. The first two-thirds of the contest were evenly-matched, with the incessant squall of rain and wind ensuring a low scoring first quarter that only saw Daniel Walsh’s immediate opener eventually cancelled out by the impressive Colm O’Callaghan at 0-1 to 0-1.
Once the rain subsided, the visitors answered a Ciaran Downes free by kicking three points without reply through Paul Walsh, Darragh Cashman and a Blake Murphy free at 0-4 to 0-2. A last gasp Diarmuid O’Donnell free did halve the interval arrears to the minimum and the home side looked to kick on for the new half when returning with three further Downes frees to inch 0-6 to 0-4 clear by the 48th minute.
However, a sucker-punch Conor Corbett goal on the counter from Cork at the turn of the final quarter would by the catalyst for a complete sea-change in the narrative for the remainder as a buoyant Cork helped by their superior bench outscored their hosts by 2-10 to 0-2. Good work from captain Mattie Taylor, Brian O’Driscoll and the relentless Paul Walsh teed up Corbett for a back post flick to the net at 1-5 to 0-6 while a brace of points each from replacements Chris Óg Jones and Mark Cronin sandwiched a clinching second goal for the latter after fellow substitutes Jones and Ian Maguire played him in.
Kieran Malone did finally end Clare’s 22 minute barren patch after coming in but there was certainly no doubting the victors as Cork fleshed out the final margin in ruthless fashion. Clare meanwhile have a quick turnaround as they travel to Lemybrien on Sunday (2pm) in search of a first victory of the post-Colm Collins era before a welcome three week recess to lighten their treatment table ahead of their National League Division 3 opener at home to Sligo on Sunday, January 29.

Cork: Patrick Doyle (Knocknagree); Kevin Flahive (Douglas), Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty), Mattie Taylor (Mallow); Darragh Cashman (Millstreet), Tommy Walsh (Kanturk), Brian O’Driscoll (Tadhg Mac Carthaigh); Colm O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), Paul Walsh (Kanturk); Eoghan McSweeney (Knocknagree), Fionn Herlihy (Dohenys), John O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); David Buckley (Newcestown), Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers), Blake Murphy (St Vincent’s).

Subs: Chris Óg Jones (Iveleary) for Herlihy (HT), Ruairi Deane (Bantry Blues) for O’Rourke (HT), Ian Maguire (Nemo Rangers) for McSweeney (49), Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) for Murphy (54), Luke Fahy (Ballincollig) for Cashman (56, inj), Sean Meehan (Kiskeam) for Flahive (63), Damien Gore (Kilmacabea) for Buckley (66), Neil Lordan (Ballinora) for P. Walsh (69), Jack McCarthy (Carrigaline) for T. Walsh (69)

Scorers: Mark Cronin (1-3, 2f); Conor Corbett (1-2); Darragh Cashman, Chris Óg Jones, Colm O’Callaghan (0-2 each); Paul Walsh, Blake Murphy (f), Mattie Taylor (0-1 each)

Clare: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks); Ronan Lanigan (Éire Óg), Manus Doherty (Éire Óg), Micheál Garry (Cooraclare); Josh Guyler (Inagh-Kilnamona), Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s), Daniel Walsh (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Gavin Murray (Éire Óg), Brian McNamara (Cooraclare); Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Darren O’Brien (Éire Óg), Ciaran Downes (Kilmihil); Diarmuid O’Donnell (Kildysart), Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey), Shane Griffin (Lissycasey).

Subs: Kieran Malone (St Joseph’s Miltown) for Coughlan (45-49, BS), Malone for O’Donnell (53), Tom McDonald (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for O’Brien (56), Ciaran McMahon (Ennistymon) for Coughlan (60, inj)

Scorers: Ciaran Downes (0-5, 4f); Daniel Walsh, Diarmuid O’Donnell (f), Kieran Malone (0-1 each)

Referee: Donnacha O’Callaghan (Limerick)

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