CROKE PARK WAS a sea of colour this afternoon as Munster neighbours Limerick and Clare met in the second of this year’s All-Ireland hurling semi-finals.
Only one could survive — but would it be Limerick who took the penultimate step towards their first championship since 1973? Or would Clare be back in the decider 11 years on from their heartbreaking defeat against Kilkenny?
Clare 1-22 Limerick 0-18
15.36 – Good afternoon and welcome to Croke Park for this afternoon’s senior semi between Limerick and Clare.
One thing is for sure: these two have a lot to do if they are to live up to the drama — and controversy — of the minor clash between Galway and Limerick which has just finished.
15.36 – Here are the teams as named earlier this week:
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Paudie O Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O Mahony; Paul Browne, Dónal O’Grady (c); David Breen, James Ryan, Seamus Hickey; Graham Mulcahy, Declan Hannon, Seanie Tobin.
Clare: Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O’Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon; Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan, Patrick O’Connor; Colm Galvin, Conor Ryan; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan; Pádraic Collins, Darach Honan, Conor McGrath.
15.37 – If you’d like a bit of light reading while you’re waiting for throw-in — which has been delayed until 3.45pm because of the extra time in the minor game — here’s our match preview.
15.39 – Earlier today we asked who would win this afternoon’s game. Over 700 of you voted with 68% going for Clare. The bookmakers, however, make Limerick favourites. That’s how tight this is.
15.46 – We’re up and running. Limerick shooting into Hill 16 in this first half.
15.47 – 1 mins – David Breen draws the game’s first free from Brendan Bugler — but Declan Hannon puts it wide.
15.49 – Clare 0-1 Limerick 0-0: 3 mins — Clare captain Patrick Donnellan hits the game’s opening score.
15.51 – 5 mins – Lovely bit of skill by David Breen to slip Domhnall O’Donovan. He jinks back inside Donnellan but as he bears down on goal, Tony Kelly sticks his hurl in to clear.
15.53 – Clare 0-2 Limerick 0-0: 6 mins — Lovely composure by Patrick O’Connor who controls the ball on his hurl before scoring.
Limerick have a chance to respond by Gavin O’Mahony’s shot is wide. That’s three already for the Treaty by my count.
15.54 – 7 mins – Great save by Clare keeper Patrick Kelly. Graeme Mulcahy was under pressure from Donnellan but still got his shot away and Kelly needed to be smart to save with his stick.
Hannon drops the 65 left and wide. Wayward stuff from Limerick in these opening few minutes.
15.55 – Clare 0-2 Limerick 0-1: 9 mins — Finally Hannon finds his range and points a free from just outside the 65. Limerick are on the board.
15.56 – 10 mins — Another Limerick wide as Nickie Quaid’s long, long free drops to Seanie Tobin. He wheels away as if he’s scored but the ball is to the left of the posts.
15.57 – Clare 0-3 Limerick 0-1: 11 mins — That’s how dangerous Tony Kelly is. The ball squirts free from a pile of bodies around the Limerick 65 and Kelly needs no second invitation to score.
15.59 – GOAL CLARE! Clare 1-3 Limerick 0-1: 13 mins — Chaos in the Limerick square but it’s a goal for Clare. Pat Donnellan launches an almighty ball towards goal and though Podge Collins can’t quite control it, neither can goalkeeper Nickie Quaid. Eventually it’s scrambled over the line — either by Darach Honan or by one of the retreating Limerick defenders.
16.03 – Clare 1-4 Limerick 0-2: 17 mins — Colin Ryan’s free for Clare is cancelled out at the other end by Limerick sub Conor Allis, who is on for Seamus Hickey.
16.04 – 18 mins — David Breen is fouled by Brendan Bugler. Hannon steps up to the free and… WIDE AGAIN! There’s something badly wrong with Declan Hannon’s free-taking at the moment and Limerick need to sort it quickly.
16.06 – Clare 1-4 Limerick 0-3: 20 mins – Hannon settles himself and points a free from close range. Limerick can’t afford to let too many more of those chances go abegging.
16.08 – Clare 1-5 Limerick 0-3: 21 mins — Superb stuff by Podge Collins out in the half-forward line. He wins the breaking ball, takes one touch and has the ball over the bar before Stephen Walsh can get near him.
16.10 – Clare 1-5 Limerick 0-4: 21 mins – With Hawk Eye stood down following its “malfunction” in the minor game, we have another point controversy on our hands. To the naked eye in the Hogan Stand James Ryan’s shot looks to be over the bar but it’s waved wide by the umpires. Eventually, after consultation with referee Johnny Ryan, it’s awarded.
Davy Fitz doesn’t look too pleased.
16.10 – Clare 1-6 Limerick 0-4: 23 mins – Colin Ryan stretches the gap to five with a free.
16.12 – 26 mins — Donal O’Grady slips his marker but it’s another wide from a scoring position.
16.12 – Clare 1-6 Limerick 0-5: 27 mins — Paul Browne with the score for Limerick.
16.15 – Clare 1-7 Limerick 0-5: 29 mins — Gavin O’Mahony scuffs his sideline cut straight to Colin Ryan and it’s a gift of a point for the Clare man.
16.16 – Clare 1-8 Limerick 0-5: 30 mins — Limerick switch off down the left side and Podge Collins makes them pay, shaking his man to score easily.
John Allen is bringing one of his heavies off the bench: Shane Dowling on to replace Seanie Tobin.
16.19 – Clare 1-9 Limerick 0-6: 33 mins — Ah, that is simply superb hurling from Tony Kelly who flicks the ball away from Paul Browne with the tip of his hurl and then lands a brilliant distance score.
Gavin O’Mahony hits back down the other end to keep Limerick within six as we approach the break.
16.21 – 35 mins — Another free, another Declan Hannon wide. What does John Allen say at the break?
16.22 – We’re into additional time at the end of this first half. No exaggeration to say that the Munster champions are struggling here. As I type, Shane Dowling has not one — but two fresh airs — as he attempts a sideline cut.
16.25 – Clare 1-10 Limerick 0-6: 37 mins – Colin Ryan fires over a free to end the half.
HALF TIME: Clare 1-10 Limerick 0-6
16.40 – SECOND HALF: We’re up and running. Can Limerick find a way back?
16.42 – Clare 1-10 Limerick 0-7: 36 mins — Shane Dowling points a free. Will he be taking over dead-ball duties from Hannon in this second half?
16.44 – Clare 1-10 Limerick 0-8: 37 mins — Dowling points another free and just like that, Clare’s lead is cut from seven to five.
16.45 – Clare 1-10 Limerick 0-9: 39 mins — The Limerick fans let out an almighty roar as Johnny Ryan blows for another free. Dowling makes no mistake.
16.46 – Clare 1-11 Limerick 0-9: 40 mins — Colin Ryan gets Clare’s first score of this second half, pointing a free from just outside the 65.
16.47 – Clare 1-11 Limerick 0-10: 41 mins – This game is not over by a long way. Graeme Mulcahy scores from play and Limerick are back to within four points.
16.48 – Nervy moment for Nickie Quaid as he juggles the ball on his hurl with the Clare full-forwards in close attention. He gets away with it though.
16.50 – Gavin O’Mahony’s long free breaks to Declan Hannon and though he’s able to find space for the shot, the angle is too tough and the ball sails wide.
16.50 – Clare 1-12 Limerick 0-10: 45 mins – Fine score from Tony Kelly.
16.54 – Clare 1-13 Limerick 0-11: 48 mins –Darach Honan draws the foul from Richie McCarthy as he tries to go past him. It’s not a great angle for Colin Ryan but he splits the posts with the free.
Paul Browne responds for Limerick at the other end. Still a five-point game.
16.56 – Clare 1-14 Limerick 0-11: 49 mins — Colm Galvin gets free of Paul Browne and sends over a point from back in midfield.
Change for Limerick as Niall Moran comes on to replace Declan Hannon.
16.57 – Clare 1-15 Limerick 0-11: 51 mins – Podge Collins scores to stretch the gap to seven points. Limerick need to find something fast because this game is rapidly slipping away.
16.59 – Clare 1-16 Limerick 0-11: 53 mins – Colin Ryan points an easy free. Five of the last six scores have gone to Clare.
17.00 – Clare 1-17 Limerick 0-12: 54 mins — David Breen tries to spark a revival with a point but Tony Kelly is just as quick to snuff it out with a marvellous response at the other end.
17.01 – Clare 1-17 Limerick 0-13: 55 mins – Davy Fitz is ready to blow a fuse; he’s on the pitch to let Johnny Ryan know exactly what he thinks of the decision to award Limerick another free. Shane Dowling waits patiently and then points it.
17.02 – Clare 1-18 Limerick 0-13: 57 mins — Colin Ryan makes no mistake with a free. Clare lead by eight.
17.04 – Clare 1-18 Limerick 0-14: 59 mins — Gavin O’Mahony slices over a sideline cut for Limerick.
17.07 – Clare 1-19 Limerick 0-15: 60 mins — Ryan booms over another free from just beyond the 65. Dowling responds with a free of his own at the other end. Limerick really need a goal to give themselves any chance in the last 10 minutes; it’s all been a bit flat so far.
17.10 – Clare 1-20 Limerick 0-16: 64 mins – Limerick sub Thomas Ryan cuts the gap to six again.
A change apiece on either side: Kevin Downes comes on to replace David Breen for Limerick; for Clare, Darach Honan goes off for Cathal McInerney.
And McInerney’s first contribution is to score.
17.11 – Clare 1-20 Limerick 0-17: 65 mins – Downes scores for Limerick with what must be his first touch.
17.13 – Clare 1-20 Limerick 0-18: 67 mins — Chance for the goal Limerick so desperately need as Dowling drills in a free from just outside the 21 but it’s deflected away, possibly off the stick of keeper Patrick Kelly, and behind. Dowling points the 65.
17.14 – Clare 1-21 Limerick 0-18: 68 mins – Another Colin Ryan free and Clare are six up with two minutes to play. Ryan has been majestic with the dead ball today.
17.15 – Clare 1-22 Limerick 0-18: 70 mins — Superb by Colin Ryan. A beautiful score from play which is the icing on the cake for him this afternoon. Could you give Man of the Match to anyone else?
17.16 – A minute of additional time… but that’s nearly up already.
17.16 – FULL TIME: Clare 1-22 Limerick 0-18
17.19 – So that’s it. Clare win by seven and on the basis of the last 70 minutes, they were full value for their win. Limerick will be bitterly disappointed with their performance, particularly in the first half, and while Clare march on into the All-Ireland final, it’s hard to know how good they really had to be this afternoon.
Still, job done, and it’s the Banner who will be back here in Headquarters on 8 September for an all-Munster All-Ireland final against Cork. It promises to be a cracker.
Thanks for reading.