Clare produced their best performance of this year's Munster SHC to beat Cork at a rain-soaked Cusack Park, but their victory was all in vain as the Rebels claimed third place in the round-robin series on score difference and their ticket to the All-Ireland series.
Shane O'Donnell netted in the opening seconds for the hosts, only for Patrick Horgan to immediately cancel it out at the other end for John Meyler's men, who only needed to avoid defeat to reach the Munster final. But the hosts struck again through Tony Kelly to lead by 2-10 to 1-8 at the break.
When Horgan raised his second green flag with five minutes remaining, the margin was down to the minimum, 2-17 to 2-18, but Clare composed themselves and shot five of the last six points to secure their second win of the campaign which, unfortunately for them, wasn't enough to keep them in the championship. However, they will take solace from the fact that they managed to restore some pride after double-digit defeats to Tipperary and Limerick in their previous two outings.
O'Donnell had the ball in the net inside 20 seconds after latching on to Jason McCarthy's delivery and leaving his marker Niall O'Leary for dead. Aidan McCarthy, who was one of three late changes to the Clare line-up, added a point before Horgan pounced for a Cork goal with barely 90 seconds played after Donal Tuohy could only parry Aidan Walsh's initial shot.
The game eventually settled down after the frenetic start. Playing closer to goal than usual, former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly snipped two points before running on to a Peter Duggan pass and firing past Anthony Nash to make it 2-10 to 1-6 in the Banner's favour. Horgan replied with two points from frees - both of which were won by Seamus Harnedy - to leave five in it at the break.
Tempers flare between Clare's John Conlon and Stephen McDonnell of Cork. ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo.
The Rebels resumed with four unanswered points to reduce the deficit to the minimum, but with Peter Duggan unerring from placed balls, the home side pushed out their lead again.
Horgan's second goal after great work by Harnedy and Bill Cooper left it a one-point game once again, but Clare hit back with late scores from Duggan, Colm Galvin and substitute Cathal McInerney to make sure of victory.
Clare joint-manager Gerry O'Connor was banished to the stand in the first half following an incident involving Daniel Kearney and Cathal Malone, for which the Cork player was fortunate not to see red.
Clare - D Tuohy; J Browne, D McInerney, P O'Connor; C Malone, C Cleary, S Morey; J McCarthy, C Galvin (0-3); D Ryan (0-2), P Duggan (0-12, 10f), A McCarthy (0-1); S O’Donnell (1-0), J Conlon (0-1), T Kelly (1-2). Subs: R Taylor for A McCarthy; D Fitzgerald for P O’Connor, S Golden for J McCarthy, A Shanagher for J Conlon, C McInerney (0-2) for D Ryan.
Cork - A Nash; S O’Donoghue, E Cadogan, N O’Leary; R Downey, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon (0-2); D Kearney (0-1), S Harnedy (0-1), L Meade; A Cadogan (0-4), P Horgan (2-9, 0-8f), A Walsh. Subs: S McDonnell for R Downey, D Cahalane for E Cadogan, S Kingston (0-1) for D Kearney, C Lehane for A Walsh, D Dalton for L Meade.
Referee - P O'Dwyer.Tweet