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oneills.com Munster U20: Cork edge out Clare

Cork's Adam O’Sullivan celebrates following the oneills.com Munster GAA U20 Hurling Championship Semi-Final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cork's Adam O’Sullivan celebrates following the oneills.com Munster GAA U20 Hurling Championship Semi-Final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

oneills.com Munster U20 Hurling Championship Semi-Final

Cork 1-23 Clare 2-16

By Stephen Barry at Cusack Park

In a Munster semi-final laced with fighting spirit from both sides, Cork overhauled a late Clare comeback to keep their All-Ireland U20 title defence alive.

The Banner looked headed for the exit door when trailing by 0-18 to 0-12 but inspired by two Diarmuid Stritch goals, they reeled off 2-3 to move three ahead with three minutes of normal time to play.

Ben O’Connor’s side dug deep to rattle off the next 1-3 by the hour mark, with a debut goal from substitute Barry O’Flynn proving the winner in front of 3,072 fans.

It sets up a Munster final against Tipperary next Friday and a chance for revenge following their group-stage defeat.

William Buckley was another star turn. Having taken Clare for eight points in their round-robin meeting, the St Finbarr’s prospect landed 0-9 here from 10 shots, with six of that tally from play.

The first half was a tale of Clare misfiring as Cork opened up a 0-10 to 0-7 interval lead.

The hosts were backed by a strong wind and while Conor Whelan (65) and Seán Rynne got them up and running, their shooting issues were equally evident from the off.

They had 11 wides in the half, converting just 39% of their efforts. Whelan, so brilliant when contributing 0-16 against Tipp, was striking under pressure from Cork captain Darragh O’Sullivan. He was one of six Clare players to miss the target.

Cork boss O’Connor had surprised everyone when drafting a bolter into his starting team. Football captain Hugh O’Connor made his championship hurling debut two weeks after his big-ball provincial final defeat in Kerry. He provided another aerial option alongside Diarmuid Healy under puck-outs.

The other tweak saw Cillian Tobin slot in at centre-back and he gave a steely display down the middle.

They twice drew level through Buckley and a Jack Leahy free before kicking on to make it a four-point run. There were fine scores among them from O’Connor, after a Tobin catch, and the metronomic Buckley.

Jack O’Neill twice brought Clare back within a point but each time the Rebels bagged the next pair. They went in spurred on by a pair of Leahy frees, although Barry Walsh had an effort blocked by Mark Sheedy and Stritch was hooked by Kevin Lyons at the other end.

Cork doubled their lead on the restart with two more from Leahy and Healy’s first. Buckley also dribbled a shot wide of goal but play was called back for a free.

Defences were stretched more in the latter period as players tired. Half-time substitute Michael Collins shot at Paudie O’Sullivan and Denis Cashman robbed Niall O’Farrell. On the other side, Leahy was well-shepherded by James Hegarty before the centre-back blocked his pull.

All the while, Cork padded out their lead, including three in a row from Healy, first-half replacement Timmy Wilk, and Buckley.

Clare trailed by six but they were kept in this by cutting their wide tally from 11 before half-time to one in the second half. Cork, meanwhile, would rack up 10 second-half misses between wides, shots dropped short, and off the post.

The home side were brought to life after a Collins break from a long puck-out. O’Farrell’s stick pass found Stritch to stick a quick finish to the net.

Stritch laid on a point for Whelan before Collins left one in it.

The Clonlara target’s second goal inside six minutes arrived from a long Ronan O’Connor delivery as he raced onto the sliotar to apply the killer touch. A Whelan free made it 2-15 to 0-18.

But Cork weren’t done and late sub Adam O’Sullivan was central to their revival. He pointed and after a Buckley free, sprinted down the middle to tee up O’Flynn. Cork were back ahead and a monster score from Buckley made it 1-21 to 2-15.

O’Farrell had a deflected drive for an equaliser smothered by Paudie O’Sullivan before Whelan slotted his seventh from a defensive mistake.

A Buckley brace ensured Clare were left with too much ground to recover as O’Sullivan saved again from a Whelan free to close this one out.

Scorers for Clare: Diarmuid Stritch 2-1; Conor Whelan 0-7 (4f, 1 65); Seán Rynne, Niall O’Farrell, Jack O’Neill 0-2 each; Ronan Kilroy, Michael Collins 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: William Buckley 0-9 (3f); Jack Leahy 0-7 (6f); Barry O’Flynn 1-0; Diarmuid Healy, Barry Walsh 0-2 each, Hugh O’Connor, Timmy Wilk, Adam O’Sullivan 0-1 each.

CLARE: Mark Sheedy; John Cahill, Ronan Keane, James Hegarty; Shane Woods, Eoghan Gunning, Jamie Moylan; Ronan O’Connor, Niall O’Farrell; Ronan Kilroy, Seán Rynne, Jack O’Neill; Conor Whelan, James Organ, Diarmuid Stritch.

Subs: Michael Collins for Organ (h-t), Senan Dunford for Kilroy (56), Eoin McMahon for O’Connor (60+1).

CORK: Paudie O’Sullivan; Denis Cashman, Kevin Lyons, Darragh O’Sullivan; James Dwyer, Cillian Tobin, Ben Walsh; Mikey Finn, Tadhg O’Connell; Diarmuid Healy, William Buckley, Hugh O’Connor; David Cremin, Barry Walsh, Jack Leahy.

Subs: Timmy Wilk for O’Connell (25), Oran O’Regan for Dwyer (46), Ross O’Sullivan for Cremin (48), Adam O’Sullivan for Finn (53), Barry O’Flynn for Leahy (57).

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).