Allianz HL D1: Spoils divided at Cusack Park
Allianz Hurling League Division One Group A
Clare 2-18 Cork 2-18
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park
Cork will face Kilkenny in the Allianz Hurling League Semi-Finals for the second successive season next weekend after protecting their unbeaten group record in front of 3,446 in Cusack Park, Ennis.
With the Rebels already safely through as Division 1A before a ball was even pucked on Sunday, the result was a bonus as injury-time points from substitutes Conor Lehane and Conor Cahalane snatched a share of the spoils with hosts Clare.
The Banner, off the back of a disappointing home reverse to Galway last time out, needed to finish their league campaign on a positive note and despite a final quarter dismissal of David Fitzgerald, a draw seemed the fairest outcome.
Their Munster Championship rematch at the same venue in nine weeks time will undoubtedly be played at a higher tempo and intensity but it was still a worthwhile outing as the home side were best served by top-scorer Aidan McCarthy (1-11), Conor Cleary and John Conlon while newcomers Brian Hayes, Brian Roche and Padraig Power impressed for Cork.
On the flip side, ahead of next weekend’s penultimate stage, Cork Manager Pat Ryan will be concerned about the fitness of chief marksmen Seamus Harnedy and Declan Dalton who were both withdrawn late in the opening period through injury.
However, the visitors showed tremendous grit to face into the inclement conditions for the second half and dig out a draw.
Padraig Power’s eighth minute goal cooper fastened a hugely positive start too as Cork powered into a 1-3 to 0-1 advantage. Clare’s response was instant though as from the puck-out Tony Kelly’s powerful shot could only be parried by goalkeeper Ger Collins into the path of David Reidy to bat the rebound to the net.
That seesaw pattern continued until the break as Aidan McCarthy led a Clare revival to inch 1-8 to 1-7 in front by the 20th minute, only to fall five adrift four minutes later when Seamus Harnedy capitalised upon a defensive lapse to nudge Cork 2-10 to 1-8 ahead.
Inevitably back came Clare with another rebound goal, this time through McCarthy who pulled to the net after Seadna Morey’s shot was initially stopped by Collins as the half-time arrears were slashed to just two at 2-12 to 2-10.
Down the other end, Alan Cadogen and Brian Hayes were both denied goals either side of the interval but it was wind-assisted Clare that incrementally took over as the second half developed albeit without ever putting clear daylight between the sides.
A trio of Aidan McCarthy frees did inch the Banner 2-17 to 2-15 ahead entering the final quarter but a straight red for his Inagh-Kilnamona club-mate David Fitzgerald following an altercation with Robert Downey in the 65th. Then replacements Lehane and Cahalane came to their rescue at the death.
Scorers for Clare: Aidan McCarthy 1-11 (9fs), David Fitzgerald 0-3, David Reidy 1-0), Ian Galvin, Ryan Taylor, Diarmuid Ryan, and Robin Mounsey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Seamus Harnedy 1-3, Conor Lehane (3fs) and Declan Dalton (3fs) 0-4 each, Padraig Power 1-1, Brian Hayes 0-2, Brian Roche, Jack O’Connor, Alan Cadogan, and Conor Cahalane 0-1 each.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Aaron Fitzgerald, Conor Cleary, Paul Flanagan; Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, David McInerney; Seadna Morey, Tony Kelly; David Fitzgerald, Cathal Malone, Ryan Taylor; David Reidy, Aidan McCarthy, Ian Galvin.
Subs: Darragh Lohan for Fitzgerald (HT), Peter Duggan for Galvin (57), Robin Mounsey for Reidy (57), Davie Conroy for Morey (62), Jack Kirwan for Taylor (68).
Cork: Ger Collins; Niall O’Leary, Daire O’Leary, Eoin Roche; Cathal Cormack, Robert Downey, Cormac O’Brien; Brian Roche, Ethan Twomey; Declan Dalton, Seamus Harnedy, Brian Hayes; Alan Cadogen, Padraig Power, Jack O’Connor.
Subs: Conor Lehane for Harnedy (29, inj), Conor Cahalane for Dalton (34, inj), Shane Kingston for Cadogen (45), Ger Mellerick for B. Roche (55), Damien Cahalane for D. O’Leary (58).
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).