By Michael O Connor.
Clare, for their part were ahead of Limerick on the field of play far more than the scoreline in Cusack park suggested in the promotion game on Sunday. The one dark note was the number of frees given against the Clare midfield and rearguard that kept Limerick in contact and a slight hesistancy to attack when Limerick were down to 14 men. Perhaps knowing that a draw would suffice Limerick kept Clare alert to the fact that Limerick had two options for success whilst Clare were limited to win only option.
Clare were criticised in some quarters for their perceived lack of winning in style but all that mattered was this game since the fixtures were unveiled last November. The perfect start was created for Clare and in the final analysis it was the difference. John Conlon received the ball from Colm Galvin and despite being fouled and taking the maximum number of steps and then some blasted the ball past Nickie Quaid after 37 seconds. Conor McGrath following a Shane O Donnell pass struck over his first point before David Reidy who is turning into a key component of the Clare midfield hit a second Clare point and now Clare were 5 points clear after five minutes. Graeme Mulcahy with Limerick's first score and Conor McGrath exchanged points before a brace of scores from Declan Hannon and the impressive Paul Browne left Clare (1-3) to (0-3) ahead after 13 minutes.
Bobby Duggan in one of his biggest senior games to date sent over a brace of scores only for Paul Browne to respond with his second point after 21 minutes. A wonderful puck out from Patrick Kelly found the isolated Colm Galvin and the Clonlara man rifled over the ball from 70 metres. Clare were now sitting comfortably (1-6) to (0-4) but this changed in the intervening five minutes as a hat trick of points from Declan Hannon narrowed the Limerick deficit to two points. Colm Galvin, Hannon and Browne were all on the scoreboard in a three minute spell from the 28th to 31st minutes and now Clare were shaky one point leaders. David McInerney lifted the siege with a gut bursting run and solo point that drew a great cheer from the new stand. Barry Nash, was in the view of many unfortunate to be dismissed on a second yellow with three minutes remaining in the half. Clare finished with a flourish as Bobby Duggan pointed two frees as Clare retired (1-10) to (0-9) clear at the interval.
The winning of the game and promotion clinching moments arrived in the first four minutes of the new half. Limerick it was required a positive start but it was Clare who took control with scores from Cian Dillon, Colm Galvin and Conor McGrath to open up a commanding (1-13) to (0-9) lead. With the spare player Clare now were dominant in the back. Hannon hit back with two scores, one from play before Bobby Duggan hit a long range free after 42 minutes.
Diarmuid Byrnes with his second wide from frees let Clare off the hook but it must be noted that Bobby Duggan did also hit 6 wides. John Conlon, Declan Hannon and Duggan between the 45th and 49th minutes were on the scoresheet as Clare maintained a six point advantage. Limerick sub James Ryan who retired injured later and Conor McGrath were on target before Paul Browne and Declan Hannon left just four between the sides. Cathal O Connell replaced Bobby Duggan and he finished with two scores that helped seal the win as Limerick were dejected at the final whistle.
With strong suggestions since the start of the league that this game was maybe irrelevant due to a reconfiguration of the 2017 leagues it still meant a lot to both sides. Winning is a habit that is welcome and Clare have continued it into 2016. Next up is the league quarter final the week after next against Tipperary.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Oisin O Brien, Cian Dillon (0-1), Paul Flanagan, Brendan Bugler, David McInerney (0-1), Pat O Connor, David Reidy (0-1), Conor Ryan, John Conlon (1-1), Bobby Duggan (0-6), Colm Galvin (0-2), Aaron Cunningham, Shane O Donnell, Conor McGrath (0-5).
Subs: Darach Honan for Cunninhgham, Cathal O Connell(0-2) for Duggan, Podge Collins for McGrath, Conor Cleary for Flanagan.
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid (Effin), Richie English (Doon), Richie McCarthy (Blackrock), Tom Condon (Knockaderry), Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)(0-1),Seamus Hickey (Murroe/Boher), John Fitzgibbon (Adare), Paul Browne (Bruff)(0-4), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock)(0-1),Gavin O Mahony (Kilmallock), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell), Barry Nash (South Liberties), Declan Hannon (Adare)(0-9), Tom Morrissey (Ahane).
Subs: Paudie O’Brien (Kilmallock) for Dan Morrissey, James Ryan (Garryspillane) (0-1) for O’Mahony, David Reidy (Dromin Athlacca)(0-1) for Tom Morrissey, Darragh O’Donovan (Doon)(0-1) for Ryan (inj) (56), Pat Ryan (Doon) for Fitzgibbon
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).