*Diarmuid Stritch on the attack for Clare. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

ASPIRATIONS of Clare’s U20 hurlers reaching back to back Munster finals came undone when they were eliminated of the provincial competition by Cork on Friday evening.

Cork 1-23
Clare 2-16
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

It was a very exciting finish to proceedings in Ennis whereby 3,072 spectators were treated to a keenly contested and even encounter.

When it looked as though Clare were on the cusp of causing a major upset, Cork showed their class and pounced for 1-4 without reply in a three minute window to emerge victorious and set up a Munster final clash with Tipperary.

Overall Cork were the better side, they possess some very promising hurlers such as William Buckley and they had a knack as was most evident in the first half of immediately responding by working the ball up field and tapping over a score.

With ten first half wides Clare curtailed their own influence on proceedings and found themselves three points adrift at the interval when they arguably could have been in front.

Seán Rynne despite having some form of a broken finger or thumb was included in the Clare fifteen, he was their second player to register a score, following Conor Whelan’s second minute 65. Cork were back on level terms with an unanswered brace from Jack Leahy and Buckley before Whelan and Leahy swapped scores.

Four points in succession saw Cork carve out a three point advantage by the seventeenth minute with Clare responding through Niall O’Farrell after Shane Woods carried the ball from a short puckout and offloaded to him.

Niall O’Farrell on his way to scoring Clare’s fourth point. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Jack O’Neill narrowed the deficit to a single point but Cork hit back through Buckley and Barry Walsh.

Rynne and O’Neill who formed an excellent midfield partnership for Clare’s U20s last season both added scores to reduce the deficit again only for Cork to convert two Leahy frees to hold that 0-10 0-7 half time lead.

There was a blistering start from Ben O’Connor’s Cork on the restart. They missed 1-1 but still added three points inside the first two minutes of the second half but Clare steadied with white flags via Diarmuid Stritch and Conor Whelan.

Stritch who could arguably have been substituted at half time, thankfully wasn’t and would go on to play a key role in Clare’s comeback. He set up his clubmate Michael Collins but the All-Ireland minor winner hit a tame shot which was easily stopped. Buckley and Whelan exchanged frees before an excellent Ronan Kilroy effort when he fought to win back possession before splitting the posts cut the gap to three points on forty two minutes.

Cork replied with three scores on the trot and with twelve minutes remaining they looked to be on course for a steady passage to the provincial final.

Terrain became rocky for the visitors when Diarmuid Stritch raided for goal a minute later, Niall O’Farrell made a fine run before finding the Ard Scoil Rís student who made no mistake with the finish.

Points from Collins and Whelan followed to suddenly leave Clare within a point. Captain Ronan O’Connor led the way by turning over possession in defence and launching the play forward, the ball broke lovely for Whelan but he missed the jab lift, it fortunately stayed in the path of Stritch who ran on to it and buried to the back of the net to put Clare leading by two points with six minutes to go, this was the first time since the eleventh minute that Terence Fahy’s charges were in front.

Whelan then added a free but Cork capitalised and hit 1-3 without reply to regain their control and effectively seal their place in the Munster final.

Pace, proper distribution plus excellent movement on and off the ball make this a seriously impressive Cork outfit. They have an abundance of talent in their ranks and they were not afraid to make changes throughout the game. Best for the Rebels were William Buckley, Barry Walsh and Darragh O’Sullivan.

For Clare it must be noted that forty points was the difference between the teams when they met at minor level, a clear sign if any that the gap between the counties has closed considerably between them. Clare’s side also contains many hurlers with bright futures but for some of them it was an hour where they struggled with the pace and electricity of Cork’s attack.

A dejected John Cahill. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Together with the high wide return in the opening half, Clare’s distribution to the inside line left them battling. Earlier changes from the sideline would have aided their cause during a dominant third quarter from Cork. Jack O’Neill and John Cahill stood out for Clare with fine contributions from Diarmuid Stritch, Seán Rynne and Eoghan Gunning.

Scorers for Cork: W Buckley 0-9 (0-3f), J Leahy 0-7 (0-6f), B O’Flynn 1-0, Barry Walsh, D Healy 0-2 each, A O’Sullivan, H O’Connor, T Wilk 0-1 each.

Clare: C Whelan 0-7 (0-4f, 0-1 65), D Stritch 2-1, J O’Neill, N O’Farrell, S Rynne 0-2 each, R Kilroy, M Collins 0-1 each.

Cork:
1: Paudie O’Sullivan (Fr O’Neills)

3: Kevin Lyons (Ballygarvan)
2: Denis Cashman (Bride Rovers)
4: Darragh O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig)

5: James Dwyer (Ballincollig)
6: Cillian Tobin (Bride Rovers)
7: Ben Walsh (Killeagh)

9: Tadhg O’Connell (Ballincollig)
8: Mikey Finn (Midleton)

12: Hugh O’Connor (Newmarket)
11: William Buckley (St Finbarr’s)
10: Diarmuid Healy (Lisgoold)

15: Jack Leahy (Dungourney)
14: Barry Walsh (Killeagh)
13: David Cremin (Midleton)

Subs:
19: Timmy Wilk (Cobh) for T O’Connell (24)
18: Oran O’Regan (Erins Own) for Dwyer (45)
22: Ross O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh) for Cremin (52)
21: Adam O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig) for Finn (52)
24: Barry O’Flynn (Sarsfields) for Leahy (56)

Clare:
1: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge)

2: Eoghan Gunning (Broadford)
3: Ronan Keane (Killanena)
4: John Cahill (Clooney/Quin)

5: Shane Woods (Inagh/Kilnamona)
6: James Hegarty (Inagh/Kilnamona)
7: Jamie Moylan (Cratloe)

8: Ronan O’Connor (Feakle)
11: Niall O’Farrell (Broadford)

12: Ronan Kilroy (Banner)
9: Sean Rynne (Inagh/Kilnamona)
14: Jack O’Neill (Clooney/Quin)

13: Conor Whelan (Whitegate)
10: James Organ (Corofin)
24: Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara)

Subs:
15: Michael Collins (Clonlara) for Organ (HT)
21: Senan Dunford (Crusheen) for Kilroy (55)
17: Eoin McMahon (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for O’Connor (60)

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary)

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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