The shock on Clare hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald’s face at the end of the match said it all, and his post-match comments only backed up the element of surprise as corner-back Domhnall O’Donovan pulled Clare level against Cork in the All-Ireland hurling final.
As the clock entered the 73rd minute, Clonlara man O’Donovan popped across the halfway line to hit the first point of his championship career from under the Cusack Stand. He could not have picked a better time to register his first score in a Clare shirt.
Cork, having played second fiddle to their Munster rivals for so much of this pulsating final, thought they had it won when Patrick Horgan had given them the lead for the first time in the match only seconds earlier.
But Clare, who led by only two points at the interval 0-12 to 0-10, somehow summoned the courage to go for one last score and save a game that had appeared to be theirs by right for so long.
O’Donovan was the man of the moment, the man with the golden score to seal the deal on a 0-25 to 3-16 scoreline and ensure a replay in Croke Park on Saturday, September 28.
Even he was surprised at his arrival in the annals of Clare hurling folklore.
“I think there was less than 30 seconds on the clock and Stephen Moylan had just taken a sideline cut that went wide,” O’Donovan said.
“Goalkeeper Patrick Kelly had the ball in his hand and I saw open country in front of me so I thought my job as a defender was done for the day. If Cork scored it was over anyway.
“I wasn’t looking for the ball but I just said I’d give Patrick Kelly the option – if he chooses to use me he can. I wanted him to hit it a few seconds earlier so I could maybe run on to it and possibly pop it over.”
The draw, for a second year in a row, looked well nigh impossible in a first half played at a frantic pace.
Horgan scored seven Cork points in that opening period but Clare, inspired by five pointed frees from Colin Ryan and two each from Tony Kelly and Podge Collins, were well worth their 0-12 to 0-10 lead.
The only surprise was that they weren’t ahead by more, and it was a statistic they would rue as Cork rattled in three goals in the second half through Conor Lenane, goalkeeper Anthony Nash and Pa Cronin.
The first goal was significant as Clare were four points to the good when Lenane took off like a sprinter to fire the ball to the back of the net in the 40th minute.
Clare bounced back via the energetic Ryan and were five clear when Nash, who later missed a penalty, smashed a 21 meter free to the net in the 57th minute.
For all their youthful energy, Clare just couldn’t pull clear of a determined Cork who leveled courtesy of Cronin’s goal five minutes from time, and then took the lead for the first time courtesy of Horgan’s 10th point of the match in extra-time.
Even man of the match Ryan thought Clare’s goose was cooked at that stage, but O’Donovan had other ideas.
“When we saw that sideline cut being taken over there in the corner and the clock was on 72 minutes, we thought we were dead and buried. And then for Dunny, of all people, to stick the ball over the bar. It’s a relief, we’re delighted still to be there,” Ryan said.
“He wouldn’t be the most prolific scorer but his temperament is great so as far as fellows to have the ball he’s probably not the worst, at the end of the day. We’re in his debt, that’s for sure.”
Cork hero Horgan thought he had won the game for the Rebels with his late point.
“I thought my last point was the winner when we’d the ball over in the corner. But the way they were going, they hardly hit it wide the whole match,” Horgan said.
“Give credit to Clare, they played very well today but we obviously weren’t on top of our game. We got three goals so we hung on in there for a long time.”
Clare: P Kelly, D. O’Donovan (0-1), D. McInerney, C. Dillon, B. Bugler, P. Donnellan, P. O’Connor, Conor Ryan (0-1), C. Galvin, J. Conlon (0-2), T. Kelly (0-3), Colin Ryan (0-12, 11f), P. Collins (0-3), D. Honan (0-1), C. McGrath (0-2).
Subs: C. McInerney for Honan, F. Lynch for Conlon, N. O’Connell for McGrath
Cork: A. Nash (1-0, f), S. McDonnell, S. O’Neill, C. O’Sullivan, B. Murphy (0-1), C. Joyce, W. Egan, L. McLoughlin, D. Kearney (0-2), S. Harnedy (0-2), P. Cronin (1-0), C. Lehane (1-1), L. O’Farrell, P. Horgan (0-10, 8f), J. Coughlan.
Subs: S. Moylan for Coughlan, C. McCarthy for McLoughlin, C. Naughton for McCarthy, S. White for Kearney
Referee: B. Gavin (Offaly).
Fitz Angry Over Ref Calls
DAVY Fitzgerald could hardly contain his emotions at the end of the drawn All-Ireland hurling final – and he couldn’t help but question some of the decisions that went against his way in the draw with Cork.
The Banner, whose under-21 side face Antrim in their own All-Ireland final in Thurles this Saturday, will meet the Rebels again in Croke Park at 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 28.
Fitz couldn’t help himself when it came to suggesting that Cork were presented with “opportunities” in the thrilling game, presumably by referee Brian Gavin.
Cork defender Shane O’Neill was lucky to stay on the pitch after his hurley made contact with Darach Honan’s head in the early stages.
Fitzgerald said, “A lot of things went on out on the pitch, but I’m just going to leave it be. We have a replay to get ready for in three weeks.
“People aren’t blind. I’ll leave it at that and we’ll go to battle again. The opportunities that were presented were fairly unreal and they hit us blow after blow, and we kept coming back.”
Cork Lauds Strange, Fair Result
GOAL scoring Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash struggled to put his feelings into words after the final.
“There are mixed emotions I suppose. You don’t really know if you’re happy or sad. With 15 minutes to go we were well out of the game and when injury-time was up we felt we had the lead,” he said.
“It was the strangest game ever. I was more out of the goal than I was in the goal for two or three minutes. It was strange. We just have to put the heads down for the next three weeks, drive on and prepare for another final.”
For Cork boss Jimmy Barry Murphy, the draw was a fair result after a final dominated for long stages by the Clare men.
“I thought we might have knicked it in the end. I don’t think we would have deserved it on the day because Clare were outstanding and we struggled for lots of the game. But the lads showed great spirit and fantastic character to come back,” he said.
“I thought a draw was a fair result. We didn’t play well in the first half in particular. Clare were very, very good and were a step or two ahead of us.”
Kildare Players Want McGeeney
THE Kildare players have called for Kieran McGeeney to be re-instated as their manager after he was axed by just one vote at a County Board meeting last week.
A statement from the senior Kildare squad said, “The players feel that our County Board has let us down greatly throughout this process and our manager has been treated with a complete lack of respect and loyalty following his six years at the helm. Kieran’s reputation was frequently impugned at times by comments made over the past few weeks.
“We believe that the County Board Management Committee should have used the powers available to them to reappoint Kieran McGeeney as senior football team manager for 2014 in accordance with their own wishes and those of the players.
“In not doing so they abdicated their responsibility and must accept much of the blame for the situation that the county now finds itself in.
“Our ultimate wish is that last Tuesday night’s decision is overturned and that negotiations are immediately opened with Kieran McGeeney to reinstate him and his management team for 2014.”
Former Kildare player Glenn Ryan is favorite to replace McGeeney after Kerry trainer Cian O’Neill ruled himself out of the running.
GAA Shorts : O’Connor On the Mend
MAYO boss James Horan has confirmed that star forward Cillian O’Connor could be fit for the All-Ireland final against Dublin as he recovers from a shoulder injury aggravated in the semifinal win over Tyrone . . .
WATERFORD fans celebrated their first All-Ireland minor title in 65 years with a 1-21 to 0-16 win over Galway in Sunday’s final . . .
FORMER Cork hurler Setanta Ó’hAilpín has been released by his Aussie Rules club Greater Western Sydney . . .
ANTHONY Daly has agreed a deal to remain on as manager of the Dublin hurlers for 2014.
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