*Shane O’Donnell takes on Sean Finn. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’s hurlers let a nine point second half lead slip to lose out to All-Ireland and Munster champions Limerick in the first round of the provincial round-robin series.

Limerick 3-15
Clare 1-18
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Ennis was heaving for the highly anticipated meeting of the Shannonsiders but Limerick spoiled the party in Cusack Park after hitting three goals in the final eleven minutes to emerge victorious.

After Mark Rodgers’ point on fifty three minutes it put Clare nine points in front and in a very commanding position but the well-worn GAA cliché of goals winning matches came home to roost with Limerick forcing a collapse from the hosts in the final quarter as they pounced for goals via Aaron Gillane on the double and one from Donnacha Ó Dálaigh.

Tony Kelly’s return to action saw a huge increase in the decibel levels of a packed out Cusack Park but Clare were prevented from presenting him with the ideal welcome gift as they failed to quell Limerick’s fightback.

Peter Duggan grabs onto possession. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

By the sounding of the half-time whistle, Clare had a five point advantage. This in large parts was due to how clinical they were especially from placed balls with Aidan McCarthy having a very big influence on proceedings, entering the dressing room at half-time with 1-8 to his name.

Limerick had nine wides in the opening half, among their misses were two early goal chances. Aaron Gillane had a shot excellently stopped by Eibhear Quilligan in the first forty seconds as they worked the ball up field to try cancel out McCarthy’s opening score of the afternoon.

Full-back Conor Cleary stopped a shot from Gillane with his feet on the third minute as the Banner defence were coming under increasing pressure. Limerick led 0-4 0-2 by the seventh minute but Clare’s discipline improved while Limerick’s worsened allowing McCarthy to convert four of the next five scores from frees and put the hosts in front with seventeen minutes played.

Mark Rodgers. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Shane O’Donnell finished off a nice team move which started with a John Conlon turnover on the ground, the sliotar fell to Conor Cleary who quickly retreated to Quilligan, he picked out David Fitzgerald and O’Donnell did the rest when the Inagh/Kilnamona man spotted him in space. Cathal O’Neill replied at the other end with a nice point to lower the deficit to a single point on nineteen minutes.

Chances of two goals in the one attack then fell to Clare, O’Donnell fed David Reidy but his shot was shot was well saved by Nickie Quaid, an outstanding hook by Cian Lynch ensured Mark Rodgers didn’t raise a green flag on the rebound.

There was no such mistakes on the twenty ninth minute when Aidan McCarthy buried his effort. Shane O’Donnell was typically unselfish to put him through after David McInerney played a great delivery to the Éire Óg man. Gearoid Hegarty responded with a point for Limerick which left Clare leading 1-11 0-8 at the interval.

David Fitzgerald. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Scores dried up on the restart with Limerick failing to have Colm Lyons’ umpires reach for a flag of either colour for the first twelve minutes of the second half. Clare meanwhile were guilty of spurning easy scores in this spell but had points via David Fitzgerald and Mark Rodgers.

Further efforts from Rodgers, McCarthy and Seadna Morey helped Clare to a nine point advantage by the fifty third minute.

Brian Lohan and his management began to ring the changes with Tony Kelly, Paul Flanagan and Shane Meehan among those sprung into action when Clare were in control. However, when the pressure mounted there was little done on the sideline to quell the Limerick comeback.

Aaron Gillane got on the end of a Diarmaid Byrnes free to flick the sliotar to the back of the net for Limerick’s first goal on fifty nine minutes and suddenly entering the final ten minutes of the contest, the gap was down to three points.

They struck for two goals in successive attacks with Donnacha Ó Dálaigh and Gillane on the mark. Hegarty teamed up with Ó Dálaigh after Conor Cleary slipped when trying to win possession.

Hegarty had the assist for the third goal but question marks remain on whether Gillane was inside the square when he tapped the sliotar to the back of the net.

Tony Kelly hit two points following this for Clare but sadly they didn’t produce a strong comeback to counteract Limerick’s revival and end up on the losing side of a competitive affair but one in which they definitely should have prevailed in. It leaves Lohan’s side under pressure heading to Cork next weekend where they need to leave Leeside with a win in the bag.

David McInerney, Peter Duggan and Aidan McCarthy were consistent throughout for Clare with John Conlon also making valuable contributions. They already knew they were well capable of beating Limerick, to get the opportunity to do so on a bigger stage this year they must now regroup and bounce back from this devastating loss.

Limerick were rattled for the large majority of this game but leave Ennis relieved. It was evident between John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk that they were under pressure and far from impressed with the quality of their performance for the opening forty five minutes but when a kick was needed they found it. Gearoid Hegarty, Cathal O’Neill and Cian Lynch led the way for the winners.

Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-5 (0-5f), Donnacha Ó Dálaigh 1-1, Diarmaid Byrnes 1-0, Gearóid Hegarty 0-3, Cathal O’Neill 0-2, David Reidy 0-2, Kyle Hayes 0-1, Cian Lynch 0-1.

Scorers for Clare: Aidan McCarthy 1-10 (0-8f), Mark Rodgers 0-2, David Fitzgerald 0-2, Tony Kelly 0-2 (0-1f), Séadna Morey 0-1, Shane O’Donnell 0-1

Limerick:
1. Nickie Quaid (Effin)

4. Barry Nash (South Liberties)
3. Dan Morrissey (Ahane)
2. Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh)

5. Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)
6. Declan Hannon (Adare) Captain
7. Kyle Hayes (Kildimo/Pallaskenry)

15. Cian Lynch (Patrickswell)
8. William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh)

12. Tom Morrissey (Ahane)
10. Gearoid Hegarty (St. Patricks)
9. Cathal O’Neill (Crecora/Manister)

14. Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh/Castlemahon)
13. Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell)
11. David Reidy (Dromin/Athlacca)

Subs:
20. Sean Finn (Bruff) for Casey (5) (inj)
25. Donnacha Ó Dálaigh (Monaleen) for Flanagan (45)
17. Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for T Morrissey (48)
19. Adam English (Doon) for O’Donoghue (59)
23. Aidan O’Connor (Ballybrown) for Gillane (67)

Clare:
1. Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)

2. Adam Hogan (Feakle)
3. Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
17. Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)

5. Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6. John Conlon (Clonlara)
20. David McInerney (Tulla)

10. Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
9. Darragh Lohan (Wolfe Tones)

8. David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)
15. David Reidy (Éire Óg)
12. Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin)

13. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona)
22. Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg)
11. Mark Rodgers (Scariff)

Subs:
19. Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge) for Lohan (HT) (inj)
26. Tony Kelly (Ballyea) for Reidy (55)
18. Paul Flanagan (Ballyea) for Hayes (58)
24. Shane Meehan (Banner) for Rodgers (61)
23. Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) for Fitzgerald (64)

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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