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Clare's stock rising, Cork face battle to avoid exit and Duggan's brilliant return

The Banner are flying high two rounds in to the Munster championship.

Cork's Rob Downey and Clare's Peter Duggan.
Cork's Rob Downey and Clare's Peter Duggan.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Clare’s stock rising

Before they commenced their Munster hurling campaign last Sunday, Clare’s record stood at three wins from their previous seven games in the province. They have endured their challenges over the past three seasons but 2022 is already providing huge promise. Two wins in an eight-day period have ensured that Brian Lohan’s side have one foot in the All-Ireland series.

Similar to last Sunday against Tipperary, Clare again produced an explosive first-half display in Semple Stadium. They were six points clear at the break, the gap had stood at 11 at one juncture, and that was the springboard for their eventual success. Cork came within four points at one stage, Clare conceding two goals in the second half like they did against Tipperary, but it didn’t appear they were in trouble due to their composed response to setbacks. 

Rattling off three points without reply after the dismissal of Ian Galvin illustrated the maturity of Clare’s approach. In Rory Hayes, Ryan Taylor, Cathal Malone and David Fitzgerald they had the influential figures in the second half, allied to the class of their vaunted attacking trio of Kelly, Duggan and O’Donnell.

The ambition of securing one of the coveted top three spots in Munster is close to being realised as they prepare for Limerick and Waterford to arrive in Ennis.

brian-lohan-and-aron-shanagher Clare's Brian Lohan and Aron Shanagher. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Cork face huge battle to avoid exit

The permutations dictate Cork are not yet out of the championship race but they’ll need to win their last two games and hope the other results are favourable. Achieving those victories looks a tough task, they have to travel to play Waterford next and must attempt to revive a setup left shattered by a recent sequence of defeats. Four weeks ago they were preparing to play a league final but three losses have sent their season into a tailspin.

The collapse of their challenge for a large chunk of the first half yesterday was the root cause of their defeat. They had crept ahead 0-2 to 0-1 early on but after that Shane Kingston point, Cork were outscored 0-14 to 0-2 over the next 25 minutes. That scoring sequence was simply too hard to rebound from, even if they did pare away at Clare’s advantage during the second half. 

darragh-fitzgibon-dejected Cork's Darragh Fitzgibbon dejected after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cork struggled on their own puckout in the first half and even if attacking deliveries were more direct, it was only the introduction of Alan Connolly that brought about some joy in that regard. In the middle third Cork suffered with Clare working the opportunities for their two wing-backs, two midfielders and two wing-forwards to shoot a combined 0-13 from play.

Cork’s season has unravelled over the last month and last year’s All-Ireland finalists are on the cusp of an early summer exit.

3. Duggan’s brilliant return

In June 2019, Peter Duggan shot 0-12 as Clare defeated Cork in Ennis but it was a win that had a pyrrhic nature to it for the team as it failed to help them advance to the All-Ireland stage. Duggan’s life changed afterwards with a move to Australia and it took until last Sunday for him to become immersed in big-time championship hurling once more. He made his presence felt with 1-3 against Tipperary and rifled over three points yesterday against Cork. 

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ryan-taylor-and-peter-duggan-after-the-game Clare's Ryan Taylor and Peter Duggan after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It is a week that has reminded Clare followers of what they missed in the absence of Duggan. He largely played full-forward against Tipperary, shifting out to centre-forward in the first half against Cork, instrumental from both sectors as the action unfolded. The scoring touch is important but his robust and physical presence adds so much to Clare’s attack. Duggan turned over Cork’s goalkeeper Patrick Collins in possession at one stage in the first half, then popped up back in defence to emerge from a ruck before winning a free after the break.

The 2018 All-Star has hit the ground running this season and is a significant asset as the championship opens out before Clare.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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