Sean McMahon and Luke Pyne celebrate. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’S U20 footballers have progressed to the second phase of the provincial championship with a merited six victory over Limerick.

Clare 1-9
Limerick 0-6
Venue: Ballyagran

Surprisingly it took Clare eighteen minutes to get on the scoreboard on Saturday afternoon but once they dusted off their shooting boots they were the superior side over the hour.

Following a disappointing loss to Tipperary in Quilty last weekend, Clare had no option but to record a win if they wanted to progress to the second phase of the U20 competition which up until this year had been a knockout format.

Éanna Rouine’s goal on forty nine minutes effectively sealed the result for Clare in which they improved on certain aspects of their play but must be aware a sizeable jump is needed if they are to even challenge Cork and Kerry in phase two.

Going from how Clare started the game it appeared they may have taken an all guns blazing approach, all within the one sequence, Odhrán Cunningham, Padraig O’Dwyer and Luke Pyne were all denied goal scoring opportunities with less than ninety seconds played but this was all the ammunition Clare were able to fire for the opening quarter.

Fresh from repelling Clare’s early goal threat, Limerick worked the ball straight up the field and kicked a fine score from midfielder Emmet Rigter.

Indeed the crowd in Ballyagran was larger than the village’s population of 166 as recorded in the most recent Census but they couldn’t have been criticised if they nodded off during a tame opening quarter whereby the use of the ball and decision making from both sides was less than desirable.

Joint captain Odhran Cunningham got Clare off the mark with a well-executed shot on eighteen minutes while his colleague in the half-back line Luke Pyne was showing fierce tenacity to help lift his side, this allied with the hard-working efforts of Sean McMahon were constant features of the display.

While Clare supporters had to wait for the first score, they were treated to an abundance of points to close out the half with Conor Fennell kicking comfortably against a tricky wind while the upright aided an attempt from McMahon and Daire Culligan closed out their rally of 0-5 in succession to hold a four point advantage at the break.

Wing forward Bobby Smith responded on the restart for the hosts but the next two scores were kicked from the boots of Rouine and Fennell as Michael Neylon’s charges maintained their grip on proceedings.

Limerick had a mini-rally with two points on the bounce, a free from Ronan Quirke and one from substitute Pádraigh Murphy which could easily have been a green flag.

Tom Curran who was handed a starting jersey this weekend, made the most of his opportunity as an important link man at corner forward and the Doora/Barefield attacker got his name on the scoresheet when kicking from a tricky angle to make it a two score deficit again.

That gap became even bigger when Éanna Rouine raided for the game’s only goal. He won the ball in the middle third and carried it forward with a stride, he linked the play and got back on the end of the move before slotting it beyond Craig Maccines. This score was the icing on the cake and from here the chance to many hard-working members of the Clare panel was given to impress with some rewarded game-time.

Home advantage is now with Clare when they welcome Kerry to the county on April 10th, winning this game will lift their morale and from here the focus will need to go towards bringing their performance to a level that can challenge the favourites in what will be their first outing of the campaign.

As a result of qualifying for the second phase, Clare are guaranteed three more games which will be a big plus in terms of player development at inter-county level. Getting the balance between having the courage to go forward with the ball rather than recycling is an aspect that Clare should consider focusing on.

Luke Pyne, Sean McMahon, Éanna Rouine, Sean McAllister, Tom Curran and Conor Fennell stood out for the winners.

Scorers Clare: E Rouine (1-1), C Fennell (0-4 1f), O Cunningham (0-1), S McMahon (0-1), D Culligan (0-1), T Curran (0-1)

Scorers Limerick: R Quirke (0-2 1f), E Rigter (0-1), B Smith (0-1), P Murphy (0-1), D Murray (0-1).

Clare:
1: Cian Corry (Killimer)

2: Aaron Kelly (Wolfe Tones)
3: Sean McAllister (Clondegad)
17: Conor Kearney (Kilmurry Ibrickane)

5: Joshua Moloney (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
6: Odhran Cunningham (Killimer)
7: Luke Pyne (Éire Óg)

8: Joshua Vaughan (Ennistymon)
9: Éanna Rouine (Ennistymon)

22: Padraic O’Dwyer (St Breckan’s)
15: Sean McMahon (Banner)
12: Darren Keane (Lissycasey)

20: Tom Curran (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield)
14: Daire Culligan (Lissycasey)
13: Conor Fennell (Kilrush Shamrocks)

Subs:
24: Evan Cahill (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Culligan (50)
4: Michael Kelly (Lissycasey) for O’Dwyer (55)
21: Cathal Talty (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Curran (58)
18: Seán Conneally (Ennistymon) for McAllister (60)
10: Cillian Gavin (Clondegad) for McMahon (62)

Limerick:
1: Craig Macinnes (Cappagh)

3: Jason Hassett (Mungret St Paul’s)
2: Craig O’Connell (Ahane)
4: Paddy Downey (Oola)

5: John Whelan (Newcastle West)
6: Aaron Neville (Newcastle West)
7: Michael Kilbridge (Fr Casey’s)

8: Emmet Rigter (Newcastle West)
9: Darragh Murray (Monaleen)

10: Senan O’Brien (St Senan’s)
11: Conall Ó Duinn (Monaleen)
12: Bobby Smith (Ballybrown)

15: Shane Cross (St Patrick’s)
14: Ronan Quirke (Fr Casey’s)
13: Diarmuid Hynes (Mungret St Paul’s)

Subs:
27: Josh McCarthy (St Patrick’s) for O’Brien (38)
20: Pádhraic Murphy (Ballysteen) for Smith (38)
17: Jamie Behan (Ballybrown) for Downey (43)
21: Dylan O’Connor (Fr Casey’s) for O’Connell (53)
22: Diarmuid Ryan (Feenagh/Kilmeedy) for Hynes (55)

Referee: James Regan (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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