Epic final ends with honours even between Clare and Cork
Clare 0-25 Cork 3-16: Disbelief, suspended once again as the All-Ireland hurling final ends in a draw.
Normally, the year after an Olympics might represent something of a sporting hangover.
Evidently, that particular memo must have went straight into the junk mail folder at GAA headquarters.
When last year's final ended in a draw for the first time in 59 years, it led to mild shock that it had been so long.
Now we have the first consecutive set of drawn deciders in history.
Time was already up and the Cork support were howling for referee Brian Gavin to blow the last three peeps when Clare substitute Nickey O'Connell ushered the ball to corner-back Domhnall O'Donovan.
Under pressure and off-balance, not to mention the advanced position of a defender, still didn't stop him from splitting the posts and giving us another 70-plus minutes of this kind of stuff to savour on September 28th, at the same location, and at a time to be decided.
Gavin played too long with 32 additional seconds for Clare to conjure up O'Donovan's equaliser.
But Clare deserved another go. A Cork win would have surprised nobody although it would have been grand scale larceny.
Their ability to land killer goals kept their head above water, but they were met with some fierce resistance and a first-rate attitude from Clare that had their manager Davy Fitzgerald brimming with pride in the Press conference afterwards.
Clare began in orthodox fashion, later reverting to type with Patrick Donnellan reprising his sweeper role. Such tactical nuance had been flagged up as a key factor in the weeks leading up to the final but it ended up being the least remarkable thing in this epic.
Sometime during that spell, Cork full-back Shane O'Neill clouted Darach Honan around the head with the stick.
Both men were given yellow cards in a puzzling decision by Gavin, one of many from him.
There had been an early trade of points in the first quarter.
Lovely hurling and all that but mere preliminaries to the glut of incident that was to unfold. At the end of the first quarter Daniel Kearney latched onto a puckout, dashed through and drive across Clare goalkeeper Patrick Kelly who got enough stick on it to stop, but then grabbed it off the floor to concede a 21-yard free.
Up came Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash to scoop the ball in front of him by several yards, but by the time he connected Kelly was almost on top of him, having ventured on sprinting from his spot and the ball came off his backside and to safety.
Mainly through the accuracy of Colin Ryan from frees, and a creaking Cork backline, Clare were able to maintain their lead, occasionally stretching it out, but then Cork, who had only one goal in the championship before this final, rediscovered their mojo five minutes into the second half.
From a Nash puckout, Conor Lehane took it in his stride and burned Patrick O'Connor for pace as he took a wide line towards the Hill 16 goals.
O'Donovan was about to meet him but Lehane let fly to put it in the top corner.
In the next 15 minutes Clare set the gap at five points again before Luke O'Farrell won a free on the 21-yard line.
Nash skipped up the field, occasionally jostled by Clare players who manufactured a mini-schmozzle.
Kelly was instructed to stay in his line this time and he could barely smell Nash's rocket hitting the roof of the net to keep Cork in it.
A minute later, Cian Dillon and O'Donovan took down Seamus Harnedy for a penalty. Nash caught it flush only for Colin Ryan to deflect the ball onto the crossbar.
A Cathal McInerney shot clipped the bar only for Cork to work it upfield. Substitute Stephen Moylan hand-passed it at the perfect time for Pat Cronin to stitch it into the net and level the game.
Christopher Joyce flighted a sideline ball across the pitch for Patrick Horgan to control and fire over his 10th point of the day, before that late, late contribution from O'Donovan.
It's been a crazy summer of hurling, with anything we took for granted dissolving in front of our eyes. Its' final instalment – we think – will be in three weeks.
Until then, do whatever necessary to get a ticket.
CLARE: P Kelly; D O'Donovan (0-1), D McInerney, C Dillon; B Bugler, P Donnellan (Capt), P O'Connor; C Galvin, Conor Ryan (0-1); 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 (62 mins), F Lynch for Galvin, N O'Connell for Conlon (64 mins).
Yellow cards: Honan (17 mins), Dillon (59 mins).
CORK: A Nash (1-0); 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 (Capt) (1-0), C Lehane (1-1); L O'Farrell, P Horgan (0-10, 8f), J Coughlan. Subs: S Moylan for Coughlan (36 mins), C McCarthy for L McLoughlin (42 mins), C Naughton for McCarthy (50 mins), T Kenny for Egan (64 mins), S White for Kearney (67 mins).
Yellow cards: O'Neill (17 mins), McDonnell (47 mins), O'Sullivan (55mins), Naughton (58 mins).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)