Clare 5-16 Cork 3-16
IMPOSSIBLY, IT WAS a final that did justice to the vintage Championship that preceded it.
After 72 classic minutes that can stand proudly alongside the best in memory, living or otherwise, Clare are the 2013 All-Ireland Champions.
In a final with more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders, it was fitting that the man who stole the show wasn’t even on the team-sheet this morning.
Shane O’Donnell was a late inclusion at full-forward for Clare. By the 19th minute, the 19-year-old from Eire Óg had scored a hat-trick in front of 82,276 in Croke Park; by the final whistle, he had 3-3 and an All-Ireland medal.
O’Donnell’s third put Clare 3-6 to 1-6 up in a battle which very quickly lived up to the thrilling memory of the drawn game three weeks ago.
There was just five minutes on the clock when captain Pat Donnellan, lining out in midfield, burst down the centre of the field and shipped off to O’Donnell who finished past Nash. Eight minutes later, Conor O’Sullivan’s slip was punished by Conor McGrath who laid the chance on a plate for his ravenous full-forward.
O’Donnell celebrates his second goal with Podge Collins (INPHO / Donall Farmer)
This was always a game that Cork keeper Anthony Nash was going to play a part in and, in remarkable fashion, he drew the Rebels back into the game on 16 minutes. Twelve Clare defenders, including keeper Pa Kelly, stood between Nash’s 21-yard free and the goal but with power and precision, he found a way.
O’Donnell’s hat-trick goal pushed the gap back out. Clare were eight up before Cork closed the half with four unanswered points to leave it 3-9 to 1-11 at the break, a lot closer than Clare’s dominance deserved.
Clare defenders unable to stop Nash (INPHO/James Crombie)
The Rebels’ resurgence continued after the break and they managed five points to just one for Clare in the third quarter, a Pa Horgan free levelling the match at 3-10 to 1-16.
That was as close as Jimmy Barry-Murphy came to a 31st All-Ireland title for the Rebels. Clare scored 2-6 to Cork’s 2-0 in a blistering finale that served as a perfect crescendo to the summer.
Winter might be bleak but on a day like today, that hardly seems to matter.
Points from O’Donnell, John Conlon and Colin Ryan steadied the ship for Clare but when Seamus Harnedy placed the ball in the corner just out of Kelly’s reach with a deft groundstroke, Cork were poised for one last chance.
O’Donnell hoisted up in front of Hill 16 by his team-mates (INPHO/Donall Farmer)
But a stunning solo effort from Conor McGrath, topped by points from Kelly and O’Donnell gave Clare a firm grasp on the title with five minutes to play.
Late goals from Stephen Moylan and Clare sub Darach Honan made sure the drama kept up till James McGrath’s final whistle. It sounded the end of one of the great hurling summers, but Clare won’t mind.
Scorers for Clare: Shane O’Donnell 3-3, Colin Ryan 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 ’65), Conor McGrath 1-1, Darach Honan 1-0, Tony Kelly 0-3, John Conlon 0-2.
Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-9 (0-7f), Seamus Harnedy 1-2, Stephen Moylan 1-1, Anthony Nash 1-0 (1-0f), Conor Lehane 0-2, Patrick Cronin, Lorcan McLoughlin 0-1 each.
Cork: Anthony Nash; Stephen McDonnell, Shane O’Neill, Conor O’Sullivan; Christopher Joyce, Brian Murphy, William Egan; Lorcan McLoughlin, Daniel Kearney; Seamus Harnedy, Cian McCarthy, Conor Lehane; Luke O’Farrell, Patrick Cronin, Patrick Horgan.
Substitutes: Stephen White for Egan (22), Stephen Moylan for O’Farrell (half-time), Tom Kenny for Kearney (38), Cathal Naughton for McCarthy (54), Killian Murphy for McDonnell (70).
Clare: Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O’Donovan, Cian Dillon, David McInerney; Conor Ryan, Brendan Bugler, Patrick O’Connor; Pat Donnellan (c), Colm Galvin; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan; Podge Collins, Shane O’Donnell, Conor McGrath.
Substitutes: Cathal McInerney for Galvin (52), Nicky O’Connell for Collins (60),Darach Honan for O’Donnell (67), Seadna Morey for Kelly (71).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)