By Michael O Connor.
Success for Clare but at a cost. Clare are once more facing a munster semi final but have suffered a possible huge personal injury to Aaron Cunningham who appeared to revisit old issues with a knee injury. Clare entered the game with 11 of the current Clare training panel on the starting 15 and were odds on for success as they ultimately proved.
Four of the Limerick team were on the Munster minor winning side of 2013, namely Richie English, Cian Lynch, David Dempsey and Pat Ryan with Lynch starting his leaving cert the day of the game. Lynch who is a nephew of team manager Ciaran Carey was a star of that minor side and was parachuted into the side. Clare who were going for three in a row provincial and All Ireland titles in this grade were denied due to injuries the services of Shane O Donnell, Alan O Neill and crucially top scorer last year Cathal O Connell. Ironically all three suffering from hamstring injuries of some severity. This was a huge blow to the Banner sides scoring potential irrespective of how people suggested that the champions had star forward power.
A sizable attendance of 6,063 gathered at the gaelic grounds for this eagerly awaited clash of neighbours as Tony Kelly was lined out on the 40’ with Conor Cleary holding down the number 6 jersey. The first bit of action saw Eoin Enright enter the referee’s notebook as Shane Dowling pointed the resulting free. Jamie Shanahan who starred for Limerick nursery Ard scoil Ris opened the scoring for Clare before Shane Gleeson and Dowling had the sides level after six minutes action in what was a tame opening half with little real aggression offered by the sides towards each other. Bobby Duggan opened his account from a free before a long range effort from Seadna Morey sent Clare two clear. Dowling hit another free as Kevin O Brien was giving Jack Browne a few anxious moments without getting past the Ballyea man. Pat Ryan had a slight goal chance that ended with a point in the 10th minute after a cross goal ball from Kevin O Brien. Tony Kelly and Aaron Cunningham with a great score surged Clare two clear before Cian Lynch narrowed this to the minimum at (0-6) to (0-5).
Clare’s brightest and most enterprising segment of the first half was to come five points as opposed to two scores from Dowling as Duggan hit all five score for Clare with two coming from play. Just when it appeared that Clare were going to advance their cause more they wilted. Limerick rallied with scores from Mark Carmody, Shane Dowling (2) and Mike Fitzgibbon on target with a sole response from Colm Galvin to leave Clare (0-12) to (0-10) clear at the interval.
The Shannonsiders would have been reasonably satisfied to be in arrears by two with the breeze at their backs as Clare were playing within themselves. Jamie Shanahan, who striking and precision passing was of the highest order scored the first point of the new half before Tony Kelly set up Aaron Cunningham for a great score as Keith Hogan stood his ground to deny Kevin O Brien a real goal chance. Limerick wing back Dan Morrissey and substitute Dan O Donovan hit minors before a Clare onslaught closed out the game to end it as an event with ten minutes remaining. Bobby Duggan and Colm Galvin added points to restore a four point lead before Shane Gleeson made it five clear for Clare. Shane Dowling struck over a free in a rare attack for his side as they were now looking at a sizable defeat even if they did not score a goal. Bobby Duggan and captain Tony Kelly who skimmed the crossbar left six points between the sides. The first goal ended the contest when a high ball in was tipped by Peter Duggan to Cunningham who lobbed Darragh Stapleton in the 52nd minute. Diarmuid Byrnes was sent off for a second yellow card in the 53rd minute but the pressure on the Limerick defence was more than they could handle. Dowling responded with what was now a consolation score. Peter Duggan after a well worked move struck a second Clare goal but at a cost as Aaron Cunningham laid prostrate on the ground with what appeared to be a serious knee injury and was instantly replaced. The Shannon man who has experienced a catalogue of injuries in recent years must hope for the best with this latest setback. Duggan added a final Clare score before Kevin O Brien who was busy all evening scored a last minute consolation goal for Limerick. Clare now move onto a munster semi final clash on July 16th with Tipperary in Ennis.
Best for the winners was Keith Hogan, Seadna Morey, Jamie Shanahan, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Aaron Cunningham, Bobby Duggan and Gearoid O Connell.
LIMERICK: Daragh Stapleton, Mark Callaghan, Richie English, Shane Irwin, Mark Carmody (0-1), Diarmuid Byrnes, Dan Morrissey (0-1), William O Donoghue, Cian Lynch (0-1), Shane Dowling (0-8), David Dempsey, Mike Fitzgibbon (0-1), Liam O Sullivan, Kevin O Brien (1-0), Pat Ryan (0-1). Subs: Darragh O Donovan (0-1) for O Donoghue, Dean Coleman for O Sullivan, Bryan Griffin for Fitzgibbon,
CLARE: Keith Hogan, Jarlath Colleran, Jack Browne, Seadna Morey (0-1), Gearoid O Connell, Jamie Shanahan (0-2), Gearoid O Connell, Colm Galvin (0-2), Eoin Enright, Peter Duggan (1-1), Tony Kelly (0-3), Shane Gleeson (0-2), David Reidy, Aaron Cunningham (1-1), Bobby Duggan (0-8). Subs: Shane McGrath for Gleeson, Shane Taylor for Cunningham (inj), Shane O Brien for Colleran, Niall O Connor for O Connell, Stephen Ward for Kelly,
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).