Cork claimed their first Munster title since 2014 with victory over Clare at Semple Stadium, and are now targeting a first All Ireland since 2005.
Kieran Kingston’s side made sure their impressive wins over Tipperary and Waterford didn’t go to waste against a spirited Clare outfit, as the Rebels showed a level of maturity to hold off a second half Banner fightback.
“We never panicked,” said Kingston. “In both games against Tipperary and Waterford we’ve got different types of challenges thrown at us, goals came at very challenging times and we reacted well to them.
“We did the same today and that’s part of a team that’s maturing. You need that type of maturity and experience – albeit they’re young, but they’re gelling together.”
Cork looked to heading towards a comfortable win when they moved 1-16 to 0-12 in front by the 52nd minute, but when Conor McGrath struck a fierce drive to the bottom left-hand corner of the Cork net it was suddenly a contest again.
Patrick Horgan and John Conlon exchanged brilliant points to send the temperature of the game soaring.
Clare made it a two-point game in the final minute of normal-time, but Cork responded with character and style in equal measure by scoring three points in injury time, one of them a brilliant score from Patrick Horgan.
It was a fitting end in keeping with Cork’s championship campaign, but while others might be touting them as All Ireland contenders, Kingston was getting too carried away.
“It’s important that we keep this in context. You see the reaction of the Cork crowd out there, they’re starved of success,” he added.
“We had a similar reaction in 2014, won a very good Munster championship down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but we got a lesson from Tipperary a few weeks later.
“We have to bear that in mind, as we let the players back to their clubs for the next couple of weeks and then prepare for a semi-final.
“If you look back on 2014, everybody remembers the beating Cork got from Tipp above in Croke Park. Nobody remembers Cork winning the Munster title, so this will all be forgotten about in five weeks if we don’t put in a performance.”
Clare now face a quarter-final showdown with defending All Ireland champions Tipperary, with joint-manager, Donal Moloney adamant his side are still in the mix to lift the Liam MacCarthy.
“We’re not out at all, definitely,” he said. “We’re hugely disappointed because we wanted this victory today. Those boys will be hurting hugely, as will the management team.
“We’re not into moral victories or people saying we played well. I appreciate the gesture but it’s meaningless to the team.
“We will pick it up, absolutely. We’ll be disappointed, we’ll have a chat this evening and regroup tomorrow, and we’ll go again.”
Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-13 (10f), Alan Cadogan 1-4, Seamus Harnedy 0-2, Mark Coleman 0-2 (1 sideline), Shane Kingston 0-1, Luke Meade 0-1, Darragh Fitzgibbon 0-1, Conor Lehane 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly 0-10 (6f, 1pen) Conor McGrath 1-1, John Conlon 0-2, Jason McCarthy 0-1, David McInerney 0-1, Seadna Morey 0-1, Colm Galvin 0-1, Podge Collins 0-1, Aron Shanagher 0-1, Aaron Cunningham 0-1.
CORK: Anthony Nash; Stephen McDonnell, Damien Cahalane; Christopher Joyce, Mark Ellis, Mark Coleman; Bill Cooper, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston; Alan Cadogan, Patrick Horgan, Luke Meade.
Subs: D Kearney for Kingston (57), L O’Farrell for Fitzgibbon (61), M Cahalane for Meade (66).
CLARE: Andrew Fahy; Seadna Morey, David McInerney, Patrick O’Connor; David Fitzgerald, Conor Cleary, Oisin O’Brien; Colm Galvin, Cathal Malone; Tony Kelly, Padraic Collins, John Conlon; Shane O’Donnell, Aron Shanagher, Conor McGrath.
Subs: J McCarthy (0-01) for O’Brien (33), D Reidy for Collins (h.t.), C Dillon for O’Connor (43), A Cunningham (0-01) for Shanagher (60), P Duggan for Malone (66).