*Cormac Murphy, Oisin Clune & Sean Ronan celebrate at the final whistle. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Qualifying for the Munster Final has been the goal for the Clare minor hurlers since November according to their manager, Clooney/Quin clubman Fergal Lynch.
Despite holding a half-time six point advantage, the concession of two goals in the space of a minute during the third quarter would see Clare’s character tested, fortunately they responded to the test.
With eleven minutes of normal time remaining, Cork captain Ethan Twomey put the Rebels in front for the first time in the second half. Conner Hegarty levelled matters but his effort was cancelled out by a Jack Cahalane 65 with four minutes of normal time to play.
Kilmaley substitute Sean Ronan stood up with the greatest score Cusack Park has seen this year and one of the best white flags by a player in saffron and blue to equalise and then the final shot of the game fell to Cormac Murphy who made no mistake to split the posts and send Clare to their first minor final since 2017.
Lynch was in awe of the spirit shown by the Banner youngsters. “We hit 17 wides last week and we were absolutely gutted coming away but we know in our heart and soul that we had an opportunity to rectify it today and no better day to do it”.
“We have guys with great legs and great character, to a man they ran themselves into the ground, the hooks and blocks put in by Cormac Murphy were unbelievable. Oisin O’Donnell who played in the forwards the last three games had the biggest job of the day to mark Flynn and what a job he did”.
Regarding the moment of brilliance from Sean Ronan, Fergal recalled the difficult journey he has travelled with injury. “Sean is an unbelievable stick man, he broke his jaw last year, a very bad break, three breaks in his jaw and put him out for a good bit of the training. He was gutted, he thought he wasn’t going to be a Clare minor”.
Reaching the provincial decider has been the goal for all involved for quite some time. “The Munster Final we’ve been talking about it since last November, this group of players won very little at 14s, 15s and 16s, not much thought of them, a lot of work put in by other managers. We’ve a special group here and they’re going to have a conveyor belt for our seniors in a couple of years time hopefully”.
A defeat to Cork would have ended their involvement in the campaign, according to the Quin principal their approach to gaining an edge was reminding the players of how familiar they were with Cusack Park in comparison to the Leesiders. “There was as much pressure on Cork as there was on us, Cork were coming to our home ground where we had played already, they’ve never played here and they needed to win. I tried to keep it as low key as I could for our lads, it was a testament to their character, for lads to come out and play in front of a crowd for the second half from two points down to win by a point, that’s unbelievable character”.
On June 30th they face off with Limerick at the LIT Gaelic Grounds for the second time this year, the Treaty County being the only side to defeat the Clare minors in championship this year, three points the margin between them. Renewing rivalry with them is a challenge the 2013 All-Ireland medallist, his management and panel of players cannot wait for, they have after all been waiting for Munster Final day since November.
“Limerick were our toughest test, we were fairly bruised from the week before, we’re going to go back to the drawing board and be ready to take on Limerick and see what way things go and cherish the moment”.