CLARE DESERVEDLY CLAIMED a place alongside Cork in the All Ireland Senior Hurling final after today’s comprehensive win over Munster rivals, Limerick.
The Banner burst out of the traps and doubled their tally with a 13th minute goal brought about by the havoc caused by Pat Donnellan’s high ball into the square.
Limerick’s hopes were stunted by a slew of wides, especially in the opening half, and that profligacy made the already difficult task of reeling Clare in impossible
After leading his Banner men onto the field, Patrick Donnellan led the way onto the scoreboard in the third minute. Three minutes later, Patrick O’Connor showed lovely control before doubling the lead.
Declan Hannon’s early free-taking was wayward and denied Limerick an easy route back to parity. He finally pointed on nine minutes, after Clare ‘keeper Patrick Kelly had come up with a fine save to deny Graeme Mulcahy. Another poor Treaty wide arrived before Tony Kelly reacted first to a loose ball outside the 65 and rifled a shot over the bar.
YouTube credit: Caomhán O’Bolghuídhír
If Limerick came off the worst from that pile-up of bodies, there was still room to go downhill. Pat Donnellan’s ball rained in on the Limerick square and though Podge Collins couldn’t control the sliotar, the confusion was havoc enough and Darach Honan ploughed in and appeared to provide the crucial touch with his toe while falling over.
Even at the early stage, Limerick looked overawed by the sheer intensity from their neighbours. The wides continues to tot up and totalled 10 by the end of the first half for Limerick. And it would have been more had a contentious 22nd minute shot not been awarded in HawkEye’s absence after initially been waved wide. Comebacks are not made by shooting like this.
Paul Browne briefly narrowed the gap to 1-6 to 0-5 after 27 minutes, but at the other end Colin Ryan capitalised on a scuffed sideline cut. Everything was going Clare’s way and they would not let the foot off the pedal in the moments before half-time. Another superb Kelly score helped them into a 1-10 to 0-6 lead at the break.
A new half and a new Treaty dead ball specialist. Shane Dowling fired over three in the opening five minutes of the second half, but the hopeful roars from the green clad support would soon die away again.
Ryan stopped the all too brief comeback with a 65 and, although Mulcahy would narrow the gap again with a fine score from play, Kelly matched it at the other end to signal Clare’s intent to pull away with Colm Galvin, Collins and Ryan pushing the gap to 1-16 to 0-11 with less than 20 minutes to go.
The intensity never left Davy Fitzgerald as he remonstrated on the sideline – and also on the field – in an effort to keep complacency out of his side. He had little to worry.
Clare held firm, and as supporters began eyeing a Croke Park exit, the whole county could look forward to another huge day out in Croke Park. An All Ireland final, a chance to erase their Munster semi-final defeat to Cork in the sweetest possible manner.
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-11 (9f), T Kelly 0-4, D Honan 1-0, P Collins 0-3, P Donnellan, P O’Connor, C Galvin, C McInerney all 0-1
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 0-6 (5f, 1 65’), D Hannon (2f), P Browne, G O’Mahony all 0-2, C Allis, J Ryan, G Mulcahy, D Breen, T Ryan, K Downes all 0-1
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.
Substitutes: Fergal Lynch for J Conlon (44), Cathal McInerney for D Honan (63), Nicky O’Connell for C Galvin (67), Shane O’Donnell for C McGrath (70).
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.
Substitutes: Conor Allis for S Hickey (15), Shane Dowling for S Tobin (32), Niall Moran for D Hannon (50), Thomas Ryan for C Allis (56), Kevin Downes for D Breen (63).
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary)