CLARE defeated Cork by two points in a dramatic Allianz National Hurling League Division 1A relegation playoff at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick this afternoon.
Extra-time was required to separate the Munster rivals as Davy Fitzgerald’s Banner County, promoted from Division 1B last year, retained their Division 1A status.
Cork, having opened the campaign so promisingly against Tipperary, drop down to Division 1B and have now suffered three defeats in competitive outings against Clare in 2013.
Despite registering 24 wides, Clare got the job done as they converted 31 scores from 59 scoring opportunities.
And they showed remarkable character to fight back from two points down late on to force extra-time.
Pa Cronin scored Cork’s second goal in the 68th minute and the Rebels led by 2-17 to 0-21.
But late scores from Tony Kelly, who bagged six points in total and Colin Ryan, scorer of ten points, took the game into extra-time.
Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald celebrates at the final whistle.
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Cork had led by 0-11 to 0-7 at the end of a lacklustre first half and Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side played with the aid of a strong wind from the start.
After Paudie O’Sullivan was foiled by Patrick Kelly’s fine save in the 51st minute, Cork bagged the game’s opening goal two minutes later, when Luke O’Farrell netted at the second attempt.
That score took the wind out of Clare’s sails after Fitzgerald’s charges had fought back to within two points, 0-14 to 0-16.
But they stuck at it and a run of five unanswered points from the 61st to 66th minutes pushed them a point clear, 0-21 to 1-17.
The final quarter of the game provided rich entertainment for 5,204 spectators but the Clare fans who made the short journey were fearing the worst when Cronin caught Conor Lehane’s delivery and booted home a second goal.
But Clare had another kick in them and after drawing level again, they played the first half of extra-time with the breeze, going on to establish a 0-27 to 2-19 advantage at the turn.
In the second period of extra-time, Clare managed to keep the Rebels at arm’s length to secure a priceless win.
Cathal Naughton had a late chance to restore parity again but his rasping drive deflected over the crossbar off Brendan Bugler, one third of a rock-solid Clare half-back line.
Patrick Horgan finished with a personal haul of 0-11 but still wound up on the losing side.
Cork’s Conor O’Sullivan dejected after the game
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-10 (6f), Tony Kelly 0-6, John Conlon 0-4, Colm Galvin 0-3, Darach Honan & Conor McGrath 0-2 each, Patrick Kelly (f), Fergal Lynch, Padraic Collins & Alan O’Neill 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-11 (6f, 1 65), Patrick Cronin 1-3, Luke O’Farrell 1-2, Cathal Naughton 0-2, Conor O’Sullivan, Daniel Kearney, Conor Lehane, Stephen Moylan & Cian McCarthy 0-1 each.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona); Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Conor Ryan (Cratloe); John Conlon (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus); Shane O’Donnell (Eire Og), Darach Honan (Clonlara), Padraic Collins (Cratloe).
Subs: Conor McGrath (Cratloe) for Conor Ryan (26), Peter Duggan (Clooney Quin) for Collins (60), Alan O’Neill (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield) for O’Donnell (70+1), Jonathan Clancy (Clarecastle) for Honan (80), Fergal Lynch (Clooney Quin) for Duggan (85), Shane O’Donnell for Clancy (90).
CORK: Anthony Nash (Kanturk); Killian Murphy (Erin’s Own), Brian Murphy (Bride Rovers), Conor O’Sullivan (Sarsfields); Stephen White (Ballygarvan), Christopher Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), William Egan (Kilbrin); Lorcan McLoughlin (Kanturk), Daniel Kearney (Sarsfields); Conor Lehane (Midleton), Patrick Cronin (Bishopstown), Paudie O’Sullivan (Cloyne); Stephen Moylan (Douglas), Luke O’Farrell (Midleton), Patrick Horgan (Glen Rovers).
Subs: Tom Kenny (Grenagh) for Kearney (53), Cian McCarthy (Sarsfields) for Moylan (60), Colm Spillane (Castlelyons) for Killian Murphy (62), Cathal Naughton (Newtownshandrum) for White (67), Michael Walsh (Kildorrery) for McLoughlin (blood, 78), Brian Hartnett (Midleton) for Paudie O’Sullivan (86), Peter O’Brien (Kildorrery) for Lehane (86).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).