For the second year in succession, Clare’s Munster minor hurling championship ended at the first hurdle, this time by a margin of forty points.
Venue: Semple Stadium, Thurles
Once again it was Cork who ended Clare’s involvement in the provincial hurling campaign with the Rebels again proving a level above their counterparts in the Banner County.
However unlike the eight point loss at the same venue last year, Clare fell down badly in what is one of the heaviest defeats suffered by the county at this grade.
Following a first quarter which yielded no score for Clare, it became abundantly clear it was not going to be the most pleasant hour for hurling supporters in the county.
Despite a short-lived comeback in the aftermath of the first water break, Clare’s tally of three scores on the bounce would sadly be the highlight of their encounter.
With twelve minutes played, Cork had built up a 0-06 0-00 advantage while Clare struggled to retain possession in their attack let alone put a score together.
Once they settled at the water break, points from Niall O’Farrell, James Organ and Conor Whelan followed but this would be as good as it got for Terence Chaplin’s with matters deteriorating dramatically when Cork began to raid for goals.
Jack Leahy struck for two goals in a two minute window, the first demonstrating a finish worthy of any championship setting while the second stemmed from a rebound with Adam Enright having pulled off two saves in the lead-up. The common denominator for both of his goals in this spell being loose marking on behalf of Clare’s defenders.
Having bridged the gap back to four points prior to this, Clare would retreat at half-time trailing by ten points.
For the entirety of the second half, a Niall O’Farrell free was Clare’s sole contribution to the scoreboard while at the other end, Cork would tack on 4-17, a tally that would arguably be sufficient to win any game at this grade.
Undoubtedly Cork will be in the shake-up for All-Ireland honours, this outing an indicator of the talent at their disposal both in the starting fifteen and on the bench. Jack Leahy’s performance at full-forward coupled with the impacts of Adam Walsh and Ross O’Sullivan would trouble any defence while Ben O’Connor was solid at centre back for the winners.
Minus the services of last year’s panellists Michael Nash and Liam Kavanagh were blows from the get-go for Clare plus injuries to Sam Scanlan and Sam Meaney but the gulf between the sides would not have been remedied had the quartet been present.
By sustaining a forty point defeat it ignites the need for serious conversations with regards to the future of hurling in the county. Granted Clare got the short straw by facing off with a side expected to win out the All-Ireland but the margin of defeat is simply acceptable no matter whom they are playing.
Officials in Clare GAA will be praying harder than ever that positive results will occur in the coming days when the senior and U20 hurlers are in action, otherwise moods will hit all-times low and tensions will soar way past boiling point.
Scorers Cork: J Leahy 3-9 (0-4f), R O’Sullivan 1-3, A Walsh 2-0, D Healy, W Buckley 0-4 each, J Dwyer, T O’Connell 0-2 each, D O’Sullivan, B O’Connor, B Nyhan, M Finn 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: N O’Farrell 0-2f, J Organ, C Whelan (f), S Rynne 0-1 each.
1: Paudie O’Sullivan (Fr O’Neills)
4: James Byrne (Ballinora)
3: Kevin Lyons (Ballygarvan)
2: Darragh O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig)
7: Timmy Wilk (Cobh)
6: Ben O’Connor (St Finbarrs)
5: James Dwyer (Ballincollig)
8: Mikey Finn (Midleton)
15: William Buckley (St Finbarrs)
9: Cillian Tobin (Bride Rovers)
10: Diarmuid Healy (Lisgoold)
11: Ben Nyhan (Clyda Rovers)
12: Tadhg O’Connell (Ballincollig)
13: Eoin O’Leary (Glen Rovers)
14: Jack Leahy (Dungourney)
Subs: R O’Sullivan for O’Leary (half-time), A Walsh for Nyhan (41), S Kennedy for Byrne (46), R Sheahan for Buckley (53).
1: Adam Enright (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
4: John Cahill (Clooney/Quin)
3: Shane Woods (Inagh/Kilnamona)
2: Ronan O’Connor (Feakle/Killanena)
5: Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara)
6: Tony Leyden (Tulla)
7: Ricky Wynne (Inagh/Kilnamona)
8: Jack O’Neill (Clooney/Quin)
9: Niall O’Farrell (Broadford)
10: James Organ (Corofin)
11: Colm Killeen (Kilmaley)
12: James Doherty (Clarecastle)
15: Sean Rynne (Inagh/Kilnamona)
14: Callum Hassett (Clooney/Quin)
13: Conor Whelan (Whitegate)
Subs: O Whelan for Organ, F Hayes for Whelan (both 35), E Maxted for O’Connor (40), M Heneghan for Hassett (49), S Crosbie for Leyden (50).
Referee: Nicky Barry (Waterford)