Welcome to hell with one of the toughest corner backs in hurling 1 month ago

Welcome to hell with one of the toughest corner backs in hurling

Clare 0-28 Cork 2-20

Rory Hayes shakes Jack O'Connor's hand but as far as making friends goes, that's as pally as it's going to get.

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O'Connor looks to slide away but as if to say welcome to hell, and as if to say this is how it's going to be, Hayes pulls him back and says you're not going anywhere buddy.

And he's not exaggerating either. Hayes knocks O'Connor's hurl out of his hand. He tip-toes onto the back of his boots and, as soon as O'Connor looks to get away, Hayes bumps into his chest and he stretches his arms out wide as an octopus.

He does all those annoying little things a corner back is supposed to do over the next 25 minutes and, sitting in the press-box beside me, it would be a great understatement to say former Clare manager Tony Considine likes what he sees.

O'Connor is done for Considine says and he's dead right because, with ten minutes of the first half left to play, and with a whole load of hurling still to do, O'Connor sees his number up on the board and he sees that he's heading for an early shower.

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It could just easily have been Shane Barrett.

Cork were 11 points down by that stage but, in a tale as old as time, and in a twist that corner forwards know only too well, the most depressing part of it all for O'Connor was when he began to see the writing on the wall.

The backs were getting cleaned out and the midfielders were nowhere to be seen and, as corner forwards the length and breath of this island will tell you, there are only two men to blame when that's how the land lies. It doesn't matter that there's no ball going in because at the end of the day, those two men will always be wearing the jerseys 13 and 15.

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Hayes pushes his chest out because he knows victim number one has already been claimed. In comes Alan Connolly.

All the while, Tony Kelly is shooting points from God knows where. Peter Duggan is hurling like it's Australia's national sport and Shane O'Donnell - he's playing this game on fast forward - the Éire Óg Ennis man isn't beaten to a break all day.

Clare go into the break leading by six but, for the second Sunday in a row, and in a measure of just how well they've hurled, it could have been two or three more.

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As for the Rebels, they look caught between about seven stools. Nothing summed it up more than a passage of play in the second half when, with Ian Galvin red carded and with a Cork revival on the cards, Darragh Fitzgibbon turns around and starts running towards his own goals. He's looking for the perfect pass like they have been all day but Peter Duggan knows that hurling isn't always about perfect passes, and he flicks the ball away before almost getting in for a goal.

Cork dodged that bullet but they shot themselves in the foot too many times. They have succeeded only in over-complicating this game and that's why, after two terrible performances, they're going out of the Munster championship.

Clare, on the other hand, are going into the very heart of it.

While getting the famed cup of tea and sandwich, I got chatting to Davy Fitzgerald before the game and he told me Clare would win today and he said you wait and see, these boys will go a long way yet.

With Conlon running the show, with Hayes snarling and with Duggan, O'Donnell and Kelly on song, their old boss might just be bang on the money with that one.

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Clare: Éibhear Quilligan; Rory Hayes, Conor Cleary, Paul Flanagan; Diarmuid Ryan (0-01), John Conlon, David McInerney (0-01); David Fitzgerald (0-03), Cathal Malone (0-02); Ryan Taylor (0-03), Tony Kelly (0-10, 2 65s, 4f), Shane O’Donnell (0-02); Robin Mounsey (0-01), Peter Duggan (0-03), Ian Galvin (0-02).

Subs: A Shanagher for Mounsey (56), D McMahon for Duggan (68).

Cork: Patrick Collins; Niall O’Leary, Robert Downey, Seán O’Donoghue; Tim O’Mahony (0-01), Ciarán Joyce, Mark Coleman; Darragh Fitzgibbon (1-00), Ger Millerick; Séamus Harnedy (0-02), Shane Kingston (0-02), Robbie O’Flynn (0-03); Shane Barrett, Patrick Horgan (0-10, 6f, 1 65), Jack O’Connor.

Subs: Alan Connolly (1-01) for O’Connor (25), Conor Lehane (0-01) for Barrett (h/t), Conor Cahalane for Harnedy (55), Tommy O’Connell for Millerick (inj, 60).