By Michael O Connor.
Limerick booked a place in the semi finals of the munster minor hurling championship with a hard earned win over Clare recently. At the end of what sadly was a disappointing low key game and the final scoreline was flattering to the Limerick and did little justice to the efforts of Kenny Morrissey's charges. Clare now await the loser of the Waterford and Tipperary which is set for either the 23rd or 30th April.
Optimism was not in abundant supply for no proven reason for this Clare minor side as they made their seasonal debut against Anthony Daly's Limerick at the Gaelic grounds on a cold and dull Wednesday afternoon.
The start that nervous sides dream for materialised as Ian Murray pulled on the ball to the net after Ross Hayes dispossessed the Limerick defender with less than three minutes played. Unfortunately for the Bodyke man this was his only cameo of the day and he alongwith other marquee forwards of which much was expected from were also replaced or played with little impact. Luckily for Clare the first half was a slow burner with neither side capable of hitting the big scores. Mark ODwyer, Conor Boylan and Kyle Hayes were all on target to level matters for Limerick after 5 minutes action. With a stiff breeze appearing to favour the visitors a sizable interval lead appeared crucial to ensure a competitive second half. This early scoring blitz suggested that the tie could develop into a high scoring contest but this did not materialise.
Despite being aided by the stiff wind Clare surprisingly played a sweeper for the first half as fear of the Limerick forward line suggested this tactical option. David Fitzgerald who was the sweeper worked hard but at the Limerick side of the field William O Meara controlled matters and long ball into the 30 yard line was cleared with ease especially against physically lighter Clare forwards who were often against two Limerick defenders. At the end of the first quarter the sides were level, (1-1) to (0-4) with the Clare point coming from a free by team captain Sean O Loughlin.
Limerick took charge for five minutes and added two scores but a brace of frees from Sean O Loughlin levelled matters with four minutes remaining in the half. Ironically, Clare managed only one point from play in the first half and it came from Conor Tierney as the sides retired level (1-4) to (0-7).
2240 was the official attendance who were frozen and quite honestly devoid of interest for most of the game. The third quarter saw four points being shared and as the game entered the final ten minutes the home side led by the minimum. By this stage Clare had introduced Aidan Kennedy to the forwards and he hit over two well taken scores to revitalise the Clare attack. To their credit Clare did keep playing away with great heart but needed a powerful full forward to offer a different attack option. The final minutes saw Clare caught out twice in the rearguard as Limerick subs Josh Ryan and Cian Magner Flynn hit killer goals to seal a six point win.
Best for the winners were Conor Boylan, Kyle Hayes, William O Meara, Mark O Dwyer, Brian Timmons, Ciaran O Connor, Ciaran O Connor and Finn Hourigan. Clare had solid efforts from Killian Nugent, Sean O Loughlin from frees, Aidan Kennedy, Conor Tierney who was amongst the best on field, Ross Hayes late on and Damian O Loughlin, Cathal Noonan and the busy David Fitzgerald.
LIMERICK: Mark O Kelly, Brian Nash, William O Meara, Brian Timmons, Josh Adams, Ciaran O Connor (0-1), Finn Hourigan, Conor Nicholas, Cal McCarthy (0-1), Kyle Hayes (0-2), Darragh O Carroll (0-1), Brian Ryan (0-1), Conor Boylan (0-2), Anthony Barrett, Mark O Dwyer (0-3). Subs: Cian Magner Flynn (1-0) for Barrett, Josh Ryan (1-0) for O Dwyer, David Woulfe for Cal McCarthy, Conor Flahive for Timmons,
CLARE: Killian Nugent, Cian McInerney, Damian O Loughlin. Keith Whyte, Pa Mulready, Cathal Noonan, Toby O Meara, Ross Hayes, Conor Tierney (0-1), Sean Kennedy, David Fitzgerald, Gary Cooney, Sean O Loughlin (0-5), Kieran Galvin, Ian Murray (1-1). Subs: Aidan Kennedy (0-2) for Murray, Sean Costello for Cian McInerney, Michael Danaher for Galvin, Tadgh Connellan for Cooney,
Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).