All-Ireland SHC final
Cork v Clare
Croke Park, Dublin
Ref: Brian Gavin (Offaly)
Latest from the medics and management…
Cork welcome back a familiar face to their defence. Brian Murphy, who has been out injured since damaging his collarbone in June, is back in the starting fifteen.
His experienced teammate Tom Kenny loses out as Cork hope Murphy can replicate his sterling defensive work against Clare earlier this summer.
For Clare it’s a case of same again as they keep the faith with the team that toppled Limerick last time out.
Cork: Anthony Nash (Kanturk); Stephen Mc Donnell (Glen Rovers), Shane O’Neill (Bishopstown), Conor O’Sullivan (Sarsfields); Brian Murphy (Bride Rovers), Christopher Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), William Egan (Kilbrin); Lorcan McLoughlin (Kanturk), Daniel Kearney (Sarfields); Seamus Harnedy (St Ita’s), Pa Cronin (Bishopstown), Conor Lehane (Midleton); Luke O’Farrell (Midleton), Patrick Horgan (Glen Rovers), Jamie Coughlan (Newtownshandrum).
Clare: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona); Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla), Cian Dillon (Crusheen); Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan Mills), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Conor Ryan (Cratloe); John Conlon (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus); Pádraic Collins (Cratloe), Darach Honan (Clonlara), Conor McGrath (Cratloe).
Checking the odds…
Is this match delicately poised? It seems so with Cork at 10/11, Clare at 6/5 and the draw available at 10/1. The bookies, like the rest of us, are expecting this to be a tight affair.
Clues from the form guide…
Since the Munster final, Cork’s form graph has travelled in an upward curve. They benefited from seeing opponents have players sent-off but have ruthlessly exploited that advantage on both occasions.
Their attack is steadily starting to catch fire, as evidenced by the increased impact of Conor Lehane and Luke O’Farrell, defenders like Shane O’Neill and Conor O’Sullivan are having storming seasons while Anthony Nash’s campaign of excellence continues.
Clare can relate to the theme of recovery after a provincial loss. They were sluggish against Wexford but were competent and impressive against Galway before starring in the semi-final win over Limerick.
Then Clare showcased their status as a young team capable of thriving in the pressurized setting of Croke Park on a big championship day. That will serve them well in managing nerves tomorrow.
The game breakers are…
For all of the assets that Clare possess, they have three particularly key features. The magnificence of full-back David McInerney, the effectiveness of Patrick Donnellan in performing the sweeper role and the influence of Tony Kelly and Paraic Collins in shaping the attacking direction of the game.
McInerney’s progress has been remarkable, Cork must quell the influence that has lead to him winning man-of-the-match awards in his last three games.
Expect Donnellan to be deployed as a sweeper to erect a screen in front of Cork’s attacking lynchpin Patrick Horgan. While the skill of the diminutive pair of Kelly and Collins has unlocked plenty defences this summer.
Cork have brought Brian Murphy back into their team where it is expected he will match up with Kelly. But Collins needs to also be policed while it’s worth noting that Darach Honan gave Cork a lot of trouble early on when the teams met last June.
Cork possess midfielders who are in good form in Lorcan McLoughlin and Daniel Kearney while Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell and Seamus Harnedy will give the Clare defence plenty to think about.
Gazing into the crystal ball…
It’s an odd pairing when we consider the lay of the hurling land early this year but both these teams are here on merit. It’s a fantastic chance to land the Holy Grail and it will be a wonderful managerial feat by either JBM or Davy.
Who will win it? The game is balanced on a knife-edge but Cork can just prevail. They have been improving incrementally all year, the return of Murphy is a major boost and their attack are starting to unleash their potential.
Clare’s band of youngsters have lit up a superb hurling summer. Yet it can end with a traditional force on top.