By Michael O Connor.
Hope brought about by the appointment of legendary manager Mick O Dwyer led to an improved attitude from players. However to lose three games at home in the national football league was tantamount to starting on a minus figure and work uphill. As a consequence, Clare remain firmly rooted in the basement of league football for another season at least.
Clare welcomed Limerick to Cusack park for the round 6 league game with all at stake, namely promotion to Division 3 next season and a day in Croke park. Ian Ryan, the sharpshooter in chief for Limerick football opened the exchanges. The biggest cheer of the first half was reserved for the 23rd minute when Kilmurry Ibrickane’s Mark McCarthy opened the scoring for Clare. Blood sub Michael O Shea added a valuable second score for the banner men as the Clare defence was now a lot more confident than in the early stages. Indeed after the 15 minute Clare were the better side than their guests to Cusack Park with the pace of the forwards causing problems for the Limerick defence. On a rare foray past halfway in the 27th minute Limerick worked a good score as Seanie Buckley kicked the shannonsiders 6th point. Clare were not unduly deterred by this and scores from Gary Brennan and Ian McInerney in the 30th and 34th minutes respectively left just two points between the sides. Inbetween these scores Donal O Sullivan had to be quick off his lines to deny Ian McInerney a goal and the rebound was sent harmelessly wide by Shane McGrath who earlier also wasted another point scoring opportunity.
Optimism, at half time was also tempered with nerves of failure once more for Clare with the winning post in sight. It was accepted that the breeze would matter for no more than a score with the short game favoured by both. Michael O Shea continued his good form with a well kicked score a minute into the new half. When in appeared that Clare were on the ascendancy their world collapsed with Ian Ryan and Seanie Buckley pointed in the 37th and 39th minutes respectively. Whatever psychological damage these two scores did to Clare it stunted them as they somehow felt that it was slipping away from them once more. Whilst Gary Brennan and Ian McInerney (free) did manage to bring it back to the minimum by the 43rd minute they needed a goal to really put confidence into the side. A major factor in success was also missing from the Clare men and that was luck. They won a penalty when Gary Brennan was upended but Donal O Sullivan’s foot kept out David Tubridy’s effort. The resulting 45’ was sent wide by Ian McInerney. The Limerick substitute Ian Corbett had a solid contribution to the Limerick side scoring in the 49th minute and again in the 51st either side of a converted Ian Ryan free to surge Limerick four clear of the host side.
Another slice of misfortune visited Clare when five minutes later in the 56th minute Shane McGrath saw an excellent effort cannon off the crossbar as Chris Dunning kicked the rebound wide. In this space of time Clare spurned 6 points and Limerick added three.
Finally a minute later Gary Brennan, now operating at full forward was on target and surely something Clare football must consider as a long term option as the game gravitates to the St Flannans teacher when he is positioned there. The killer goal from a Clare perspective and the winner for Limerick materialised when Ian Ryan palmed the ball to the net at the end of a four man Limerick move. With this moment’s action Clare’s league hopes ended and seconds later Ger Collins with the goal at his mercy took the point option such was Limerick’s growing confidence that the game was now over as a contest. Ian McInerney and Gary Brennan managed consolation scores either side of an excellent Ian Ryan score that proved to be Limerick’s last score of the game as they celebrated promotion and a league final slot in Croke Park against Tipperary in the coming weeks. Such was the hope early in the second half that Clare players clenched fists when scoring believing that the day would be theirs, How wrong, sadly they were.
Limerick goalkeeper Donal O Sullivan was a key architect in this win with two vital saves and his smart kickouts kept possession. Johnny McCarthy, Seanie Buckley, Pa Ranahan, Paudie Browne who struggled against Michael O Shea but finished well, Ian Ryan who took absolute concentration, finished with (1-5)were amongst those who led the way. Others with impressive cameos included Ian Corbett and Ger Collins. Clare who were visibly shaken at the final whistle knowing that the blame for this defeat could be rested comfortably at the door of the team had good displays from Gary Brennan, Michael O Shea, Declan Callinan, Enda Coughlan, John Hayes, Cathal O Connor in patches and Ian McInerney in the second half.
CLARE: Joe Hayes, Chris Dixon, Shane McNeilis, Enda Coughlan, Declan Callinan, Gordon Kelly, John Hayes, Gary Brennan (0-4), Cathal O Connor, Shane McGrath, David Tubridy, Chris Dunning, Rory Donnelly, Ian McInerey (0-3), Mark McCarthy (0-1). Subs: Michael O Shea (0-2) for Donnelly (inj), Ger Quinlan for Dunning, Martin McMahon for Dixon,
LIMERICK: Donal O Sullivan, Andrew Lane, Johnny McCarthy, Mark O Riordan, Stephen Lavin, Paudie Browne, Pa Ranahan, Thomas Lee, Bobby O Brien, Seanie Buckley (0-2), Ger Collins (0-3), John Riordan, Eoghan O Connor (0-1), Derry O Connor, Ian Ryan (1-5). Subs: Ian Corbett (0-2) for D O Connor, John Galvin for o Brien, Stephen Lucey for Lee.
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)