An old debate raised its head yet again as a comfortable looking Cork easily saw off Clare on a scoreline of 3-16 to 0-13 at a sparsely populated Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
That old debate is not whether the Munster title has lost some its lust luster, but whether the provincial title has any luster left at all. The crowd of barely 9,000 souls was a poor tribute to what is a strong looking Cork side and of course also to the tradition of the 124 year old Munster final. A once much coveted title, is certainly no longer that.
Cork did not pretend that this was the most thrilling day of their sporting lives, but for the small band of Rebel supporters present these Munster days will always have one major importance. If Cork are winning these trophies, then Kerry are not.
Conor Counihan will probably have some choice words for his full-back line, who coughed up 0-07 to Clare’s sharp corner forward duo. In addition, Clare came did well at midfield, with Gary Brennan showing huge integrity and a terrific range of fundamental skills as the day grew ever more impossible for the outsiders. Clare decided to honour the occasion by going out and playing their game rather than setting up a system to try and minimise the much heralded Cork attack. It was a calculated gamble, but a gamble which ultimately didn’t pay off as Cork led by three clear goals at half time and had the game well and truly sown up.
The second half had all the competitive tension of an afternoon stroll. Cork had too much on the scoreboard and too many forwards who could take scores with ease. Paddy Kelly failed to start the game because of injury but Daniel Goulding came in to land a couple of fine points and all of Colm O’Neill’s scores were crackers. Nonetheless, Cork were collectively lack-lustre and committed many lazy fouls in the second half as Clare kept pushing for a consolation goal.
But the match meandered to a close and this win leaves Cork with a four-week lay-off before they return for the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where the defending All Ireland champions were knocked out by Mayo last August. A punishing few weeks of training lie ahead.
Clare now face the more crucial business of getting their minds and bodies ready for the fourth-round qualifiers. Despite the chastening nature of this match, they are merely one win away from the last eight themselves. Perhaps because there was so little at stake, this will certainly not be remembered as one of the great Munster finals.
CORK: A Quirke; Carey, Shields, Cadogan; E Cotter, O’Leary, Kissane (D O’Sullivan 55); A O’Connor (Fitzpatrick 57), A Walsh (1-1); Gould (1-0) (Collins 66), C Sheehan (0-4) (O’Driscoll 66 (0-01)), Kerrigan (0-2); C O’Neill (0-4), N Murphy (1-0) (Goulding 50′ (0-02)), D O’Connor (0-2).
CLARE: Hayes; Harnett, Duggan (McNeilis 67), Healy; Coughlan (Kelly H/T), Kelly (0-1), Hayes, Brennan (0-2), Quinlan (Brown H/T); S. Brennan (Talty 70), McGrath, Clohessy (Russell 60); Donnelly (0-3), Tubridy (0-3, 0-2 frees), O’Shea (0-4).