Allianz Football League Division 2 South
CORK 0-22 CLARE 1-18
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park
Cork may have edged the honours but it was Clare that still reaped the rewards as a minimum defeat was sufficient to secure a Division 2 Semi-Final place on score difference this afternoon.
With Kildare comfortably overcoming Laois, all eyes were on Cusack Park as Cork needed to win by at least three to force a play-off and four to leapfrog their hosts into the penultimate stage as Clare, Cork and Kildare all finished level on four points apiece.
With the sides level on no fewer than ten occasions over the contest and as late as the 73rd minute, it proved an exceedingly tense finale before John O’Rourke popped up with the winning point with almost the last kick of the game.
Clare just needed to protect their goal so maintaining a third successive clean sheet proved essential to staving off any threat of relegation as instead Colm Collins’ side are now only potentially 70 minutes away from promotion to Division 1.
A seesaw opening period saw both sides enjoy their periods of dominance, a pattern that would remain right up to the final whistle. The visitors started the brighter, with points from Luke Connolly, Tadhg Corkery, Paul Walsh and John O’Rourke nudging them 0-4 to 0-1 clear by the sixth minute.
However, Clare were sparked into life only two minutes later when David Tubridy was hauled down on his path to goal to earn a penalty that he duly dispatched himself to level matters at 1-1 to 0-4. Buoyed by that score, Clare would kick four of the next five, three from Tubridy, to carve out a 1-5 to 0-5 advantage by the first water break.
With time to regroup, Cork stormed into the second quarter, with six unanswered points in as many minutes, including an immediate hat-trick for substitute Cathail O’Mahony, to turn a three point deficit into a three point cushion by the 30th minute at 0-11 to 1-05.
A shellshocked Clare did bounce back off the ropes though, thanks in the main to midfield duo Cathal O’Connor and Darren O’Neill, and by the break, only trailed by the minimum at 0-12 to 1-08.
Once the home side commenced the new half with successive points through Pearse Lillis and captain Eoin Cleary, the tie would go blow-for-blow for the remainder as the sides were locked together five more times by the turn of the final quarter at 1-13 to 0-16.
With Cork’s need being greater, the fresh legs of O’Mahony and Brian Hurley did put the visitors on the front foot going down the final straight until the latter was dismissed for a second yellow card in the 63rd minute.
A brace of Eoin Cleary frees and a worthy leveller from newcomer Aaron Griffin appeared to suggest a fair splitting of the spoils. However, John O’Rourke’s late winner halted Clare from taking top spot in the group but couldn’t stop the home side from setting up a semi-final against Mayo.
Cork meanwhile face Westmeath in a relegation play-off also in a fortnight’s time.
Scorers for Clare: David Tubridy (1-8, 1-0 Pen, 6f); Eoin Cleary (0-4, 3f); Gavin Cooney, Cathal O’Connor, Darren O’Neill, Pearse Lillis, Darragh Bohannon, Aaron Griffin (0-1 each)
Scorers for Cork: Cathail O’Mahony (0-5, 1’45); Luke Connolly (3f), John O’Rourke (0-4 each); Tadhg Corkery, Brian Hurley (0-2 each); Paul Walsh, Kevin O’Driscoll, Sean White, Ian Maguire, Mattie Taylor (0-1 each)
CLARE: Stephen Ryan; Ciaran Russell, Cillian Brennan, Kevin Harnett; Cian O’Dea, Sean Collins, Daniel Walsh; Darren O’Neill, Cathal O’Connor; Darragh Bohannon, Eoin Cleary, Pearse Lillis; Gavin Cooney, David Tubridy, Joe McGann. Subs: Dean Ryan for Harnett (22), Conall Ó hÁiniféin for Ryan (HT), Emmet McMahon for Walsh (53), Keelan Sexton for Cooney (60), Aaron Griffin for McGann (60), Cormac Murray for O’Neill (66)
CORK: Mícheál Martin; Sean Powter, Daniel O’Mahony, Kevin Flahive; Tadhg Corkery, Sean Meehan, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh; Sean White, Ruairi Deane, Kevin O’Driscoll; John O’Rourke, Cíaran Sheehan, Luke Connolly. Subs: Cian Kiely for O’Mahony (11), Cathail O’Mahony for Sheehan (22), Brian Hurley for White (43), Mark Collins for Walsh (43), Paul Ring for Powter (51), Kevin O’Donovan for Corkery (51), Damien Gore for Connolly (64)
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary)