There was a poor showing by the Saffrons in this novel under 25s experiment on its first outing in Semple Stadium. Unfortunately Cork and Tipperary declined to participate so the winner was guaranteed a final against Waterford. Clare fielded a number of experienced inter-county players including Shane McGrath, Kevin Hehir, Oisin Donnellan, David Conroy, Eoin Quirke and Michael O’Neill.
Limerick 4-18 Clare 0-16 Munster Under 25 Hurling Championship
Prior to the game heavy showers resulted in a greasy pitch and from the throw in Clare were put on the backfoot as Limerick went two points clear courtesy of Robbie Hanley and Kyle Dillon after three minutes. Clare captain Shane McGrath got the Banner off the mark from a free before Limerick’s Paudie Ahern responded with a point.
By the end of the first quarter it was a closely run affair on the scoreboard as Barry Murphy, Kyle Dillon, Shane McGrath and Thomas Grimes all added points. The decisive score of the first half fell to Paudie Ahern who raced clear of the Clare defence beating goalkeeper Daniel Vaughan who misjudged the flight of the ball.
Kyle Dillon and Shane McGrath swopped scores before points from Barry Murphy, Kyle Dillon and Ronan Lynch had the winners 1-9 to 0-6 clear entering the final five minutes of the first half. At this juncture, the omens did not favour a positive Clare result.
The Bannermen finished the half with two of the final three scores as Kevin Hehir and a Shane McGrath free, his fifth, were on the mark while Limerick midfielder Lorcan Lyons stretched his side 1-10 to 0-8 clear.
In the second half the Clare challenge seemed to collapse. Across the field players were conceding space and possession by overplaying the ball between their own 45 and midfield area. Limerick capitalised with the turnovers to score a total of 3-8 in the second half.
Barry Murphy struck for the first point of the new half quickly followed by an effort from Michael O’Neill before an avalanche of scores within a three minute period effectively ended the game as a contest.
Paudie Ahern turned Rory Hayes and raced clear while goalkeeper Daniel Vaughan hit the ground before the ball left Ahern’s hurley for the net. Kyle Dillon (2) and Mike Mackey were also on target to surge Limerick ahead by 2-14 to 0-6.
By now John Carmody’s men had twenty minutes to salvage something from the game although it would prove an impossible task to score three goals past the impressive Eoghan McNamara in the Limerick goal.
Goals three and four were executed in the intervening three minutes by Mike Mackey and Paudie Ahern so by the end of the third quarter Clare faced the embarrassing scenario of lagging 16 points in arrears.
The final ten minutes were mere window dressing. Shane McGrath, who seemed more interested in a personal tally, added four more scores as Limerick conceded frees in the knowledge that McGrath would take the easy option of tapping the ball over the bar. Indeed it took an intervention by Colin Lynch to awaken the freetaker to the idea that Clare needed goals.
Clare did have a cut at scoring with good efforts from Michael O’Neill and substitutes Michael Moloney and Kevin McCafferty (2), all forcing excellent saves from the goalkeeper who managed to keep a clean sheet.
Limerick finished with 14 men on the field after full back Darragh Fanning was shown a second yellow card. David Conroy and McGrath’s eleventh score of the day rounded off a stunningly low key effort by Clare that allowed Limerick canter into the Munster final.
Best for the winners included Eoghan McNamara, Ronan Lynch, Josh Adams, Robbie Hanley, Mike Makey, Barry Murphy, Paudie Ahern, Thomas Grimes and Kyle Dillon. Clare’s interest in this event was at best circumspect which was shown by the result.