Clare achieved their initial objective in this year’s Munster championship, the guarantee of summer hurling without resorting to the backdoor. This hard-earned win over near neighbours Limerick featured the return to fitness of key forwards Shane O’Donnell and Conor McGrath. Winning their first senior hurling championship game in four years signals the start of a new era both for the players and the new management.
Clare 3-17 Limerick 2-16 Munster Senior Hurling Semi Final
With Paul Kinnerk and Joe O’Connor involved with the management team and Alan Cunningham working in the background, Limerick obviously knew a lot about their opponents. Shane Dowling opened the scoring with a well taken free as the Shannonsiders were aided by a stiff breeze in the opening half. Dowling added a second free before Conor McGrath opened Clare’s account with a point from play.
The first goal began with a John Conlon interception, he launched the ball into the Limerick square where it broke from Aron Shanagher, Nickie Quaid and Richie McCarthy, to Shane O’Donnell who instinctively first timed to the net. David Reidy and Paul Browne (sideline) added points before O’Donnell shrugged off Mike Casey’s challenge before shortening his grip to tap the ball beyond Nickie Quaid for his second goal on 14 minutes.
Points from O’Donnell, Colm Galvin and David Reidy put Clare eight clear. However Limerick bounced back in an eight-minute spell to draw level courtesy of a David Dempsey goal and points from Peter Casey, Cian Lynch (2) and Shane Dowling. Conor Cleary responded from play to regain the lead on the half hour mark.
Clare had a strong showing in the final minutes of the half with scores from Shane O’Donnell, David Reidy, Conor McGrath plus a super effort from Conlon leaving them 2-10 to 1-8 in front at the break.
In the early moments of the new half, Barry Nash narrowed the deficit to three before the sides shared four points with a Shane Dowling brace for Limerick, and scores from McGrath and Conlon to leave just a goal between at 2-12 to 1-12.
By the third quarter Limerick controlled large tracts but were unable to convert possession into enough scores. Cruciallly it was Conor McGrath, on his return after a lengthy spell due to injury, who put the game beyond Limerick with a deft flick past Nickie Quaid with twenty minutes remaining to open a six point lead. Shane Dowling, David Reidy and sub Jason McCarthy added minors as Clare went seven clear.
In the final quarter both sides emptied their benches. Kyle Hayes and Pat Ryan narrowed Clare’s lead to five before Seadna Morey made no mistake from 60 yards. Aaron Cunningham had a great overhead catch before being bundled over by Quaid however Tony Kelly sent the resulting penalty inches wide.
Ian Galvin, stretched Clare seven clear as the clocked ticked down towards injury time before Kyle Hayes struck for Limerick’s consolation goal.
Had it been known prior to the game that Aron Shanagher, Podge Collins, Tony Kelly, David Reidy and Colm Galvin would score only a single point from play between them, Limerick’s odds would have been drastically culled.
Clare have more work to do as they look forward to a Munster final on July 9th but they definitely have the potential to go further. Their best included Seadna Morey, David McInerney, Podge Collins, John Conlon, Shane O’Donnell, Conor McGrath, Colm Galvin, Conor Cleary and Jason McCarthy.
Limerick showed glimpses of promise but failed the consistency test. An improvement could see John Kiely’s men offer a strong challenge in the qualifiers. Their best included Kyle Hayes, Shane Dowling from frees, Paul Browne, Cian Lynch in the first half, Barry Nash, Seamus Hickey, Dan Morrissey and David Dempsey.