CLARE'S first Munster football final in 12 years ended in defeat at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, but the Banner footballers did not disgrace themselves.
Cork's three first-half goals sealed the result, giving the Rebels their first provincial title in three years, but complete underdogs Clare didn't roll over easily, despite losing 3-16 to 0-13.
Their full-forward line - Michael O'Shea, David Tubridy and Rory Donnelly - scored eight points from play from a total of 13 and forced Cork defenders and goalkeeper Alan Quirke to scramble balls to safety off the line on at least three occasions.
For Conor Counihan, there is more to ponder than the scoreline suggests.
First-half goals from Fintan Goold, Aidan Walsh and Nicholas Murphy helped Cork to lead by 3-9 to 0-9 at half-time. And while Clare matched Cork point for point for most of the second half, the result was never in doubt.
Clare boss Michael McDermott didn't employ sweepers in his defence allowing gaps to appear for Cork's goals, but he does not believe it would make any difference if he had changed tactics. "Watching Cork closely over the last 12 months, if you drop a defender back, you are going to invite them on, and when you do that, they'll kick 25 or 26 points against you," McDermott figured. "The goals came from our mistakes, more so than from them penetrating.
"It's a chance in a lifetime to get into a Munster final. You don't go in to keep a scoreline down. You go out and try to win it, we were brave enough to try and win it today."
Counihan wasn't pleased that Cork sat back as they did. They won the second half by 0-9 to 0-6, but the concession of so many scores by their full-back line poses a concern.
"We can't be too negative about it," said Counihan. "We won a Munster championship for the first time in three years. The second-half performance would be most disappointing. At this level you expect and demand more of players. We'll be asking the questions of our lads over the next few weeks as to why we didn't push on."