By Michael O Connor.
A happy Micheal McDermott and two wins out of three in the NFL maintaining their 100% home league record, with games and hopefully successes to come against Leitrim and Kilkenny and probably London away would give them 10 points leaving Clare with their own fate in their hands in their away games against Carlow and Wicklow.
With so little games at home level and hard trips away from headquarters it was imperative that Clare would be 100% successful at home to aid their cause. The opening round win was diluted with a loss against Fermanagh in a game that they surrendered after a powerful start. One ace in the pack from a Clare angle one would assume would have been the knowledge possessed of the Limerick scene by Clare manager Micheal McDermott as he managed Monaleen to the county title in 2011 and is involved once more in 2012. No more than 250 hardy souls were present in Cusack Park with most interest prematch centring on the Tipperary/Clare game in Sixmilebridge.
The opening score chance fell to Ian Ryan and the ever accurate St Senans man on this occasion fluffed his 25 metre kick into the hands of Joe Hayes as Clare responded with a well taken Graham Kelly who fielded the ball well and made no mistake for the game's opening score after five minutes action. Clare then spent the following seven minutes under the cosh as Limerick pressed hard for a score that eventually came via a Ian Ryan free in the 11th minute. Ryan added a second free three minutes later as Clare on the attack were surrendering possession when in good positions letting Limerick off the hook. The Clare full back line did not look at all comfortable dealing with crossfield ball and quite often were fortunate that Limerick did not exploit this.
Clare had four wides kicked by the 20th minute before finally levelling the game through a David Tubridy free after 22 minutes. He wasted a scoring chance two minutes later from another free as Clare were beginning to control the game without scoring. Worringly they were backed by the strong wind yet kicked seven wides with ten minutes remaining in normal time. Ian Ryan against the run of play had once scoring chance and with a tight angled point made no mistake as Limerick retook the lead in the 28th minute. Clare were able to get the ball into scoring positions but shot selection and accuracy left a lot to be desired.
Clare levelled the game for the third time when Tubridy made up for two successive wides with a well taken free from a narrow angle as the game was well into the final five minutes of the first half. The best score of the game came from a Ger Quinlan finish after good approach work from Graham Kelly who had just been booked and Shane McGrath who set up the veteran midfielder for the lead point. The final score fell to Michael O Shea who had a busy second half to leave the home side (0-5) to (0-3) clear at the break but facing into a stiff wind.
Instead of seizing the initiative at the start of the new half Limerick wilted as it was Clare to hit the ground hard scoring three unanswered points in the first ten minutes with two brilliant efforts from Shane McGrath and a converted free from David Tubridy to surge Clare five clear with 51 minutes played. Limerick eventually got their act together and hit three in as many minutes as Ian Ryan (free), Pa Rannahan and team captain Ger Collins narrowed the Clare lead to two points, (0-8) to (0-6) with 15 minutes remaining. Tubridy and Ryan exchanged frees in the 57th and 64th minutes as Clare were nervous two point leaders entering the final five minutes with Limerick attacking and Clare spurning good chances on the break. Clare's last score came from Gary Brennan who broke three tackles before pointing in the 66th minute. Ger Collins and sub Stephen Kelly hit for late scores but solid defending by Clare from Joe Hayes and the defense kept the one point advantage at the final whistle.
Best for the winners who celebrated this win were Joe Hayes, Lawrence Healy, Martin McMahon, Shane McNeilis, Gary Brennan, Michael O Shea, Shane Brennan David Tubridy, and Shane McGrath. Limerick had solid performances from Ian Ryan, Ger Collins in the last twenty minutes, Stephen Lavin, John Riordan, Barry Fitzpatrick and Brian Scanlon.
CLARE: Joe Hayes, Barry Hartnett, Shane McNeilus, Lawrence Healy, Martin McMahon, Gordon Kelly, John Hayes, Gary Brennan (0-1), Ger Quinlan (0-1), Michael O Shea (0-1), David Tubridy (0-4), Alan Clohessy, Rory Donnelly, Shane McGrath (0-2), Graham Kelly (0-1). Subs: Shane Brennan for Graham Kelly, Timmy Ryan for Donnelly.
LIMERICK: Brian Scanlon, Damien Quaid, Johnny McCarthy, Steven Lavin, John Riordan, Stephen Lucey, Barry Fitzpatrick, Sean Buckley, John Cooke, Pa Ranahan (0-1), Eoghan O'Connor, James O'Meara, Ger Collins (0-2), Seamus O'Carroll, Ian Ryan (0-6). Subs: Stephen Kelly for O Meara, Eoin Barry for Lucey, Ian Corbett for Cooke, Graham O Connell for O Carroll
Referee: Brian Tyrrell (Tipperary)