*Michael Collins. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’S U20 hurlers delivered a strong finish to see off Limerick in the opening round of the Munster championship.

Clare 2-17
Limerick 2-15
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge

Following on from the minor’s winning start on Thursday night, Clare’s U20s delivered the goods on Friday evening to leave it all in the hands of the county seniors to tick off three wins from three to mark a successful week for hurling in the Banner County.

Seven of last year’s victorious All-Ireland winning minor side took to the field for Terence Fahy’s U20s. James Hegarty played a vital part in stemming the tide when moved to the full-back line in the second half while the two goals, one in either half from Michael Collins were central to Clare’s success.

Prior to the game there was a minute’s silence for Liam Walsh of Killaloe. He had represented his county up to minor.

With the concession of two soft goals, Clare found themselves behind heading in at half-time but they fired the last three scores of the game to ensure they left Sixmilebridge with their first win of the campaign.

Collins’ first goal on five minutes was made by an excellent Ronan Kilroy run through the spine of the Limerick defence and aided by Niall O’Farrell making the final pass to send the Clonlara man on his way.

Although Limerick hit the next score via Oisin O’Farrell, Clare replied with three unanswered scores courtesy of Conor Whelan on two occasions and Eoghan Gunning.

It was Clare that were playing the better hurling in the opening half but their dominance counted for little after a dropping ball from Mikey Fitzgibbon saw Mark Sheedy leave his line and force a communication blunder with him and Ronan Keane which left Oisin O’Farrell with an easy finish to get a goal.

Points from Whelan, Sean Rynne and Collins were wiped out by O’Farrell on two occasions, Con Hayes and Robert O’Farrell to leave the minimum between the teams on twenty nine minutes.

By the half-time whistle, Limerick were in front for only the second time. Keane had done well to turn over possession in defence but his subsequent pass while emerging with the sliotar was intercepted and resulted in Robert O’Farrell striking to the roof of Sheedy’s net for Limerick’s second goal in the last attack of the half.

Sean Rynne and David Fitzgerald swapped scores on the restart before Collins did very well to win back possession and gently bat the sliotar to the back of the net for Clare’s second goal on thirty five minutes.

This green flag put the hosts back in front and they added points through Niall O’Farrell and Whelan to steady themselves. Fintan Fitzgerald and Ronan Kilroy exchanged efforts as did Oisin O’Farrell and Jack O’Neill.

Substitute Donal Coughlan, Oisin O’Farrell and midfielder Con Hayes helped Limerick to three unanswered points pushing them into the slenderest of leads.

A glorious chance presented itself to Clare when Jack O’Neill was brought down and a penalty awarded but Conor Whelan missed the target. The Whitegate man was excellent from placed balls in the opening half but less accurate in the second, however he would step up with two vital frees at the death coupled with a point from Sean Rynne to see Clare hit 0-3 without reply and claim the win.

Key to Clare’s victory were the repositioning moves made throughout the game. Sean Rynne’s role in the second half was much more prominent, starting a player of his influence at full-forward back fired as he was starved of possession but his middle third role in the second half coincided with Clare regaining their dominance on proceedings.

So too was the call to drop James Hegarty and Shane Woods to the full-back line, Limerick senior Shane O’Brien caused Tony Leyden problems, winning three frees off the Tulla man and prompting him to receive a yellow card, most U20s would struggle on the Kilmallock man and Leyden still played a part when moved further out field. The Inagh/Kilnamona duo steadied matters in the full-back line and this was central to the result.

It’s a winning start for Clare which was the primary objective but a big lift will be needed for next weekend’s trip to Cork.

Scorers Clare: C Whelan (0-7 7f), M Collins (2-1), S Rynne (0-3), N O’Farrell (0-2), S Woods (0-1), E Gunning (0-1), R Kilroy (0-1), J O’Neill (0-1)

Scorers Limerick: O O’Farrell (1-7 4f), R O’Farrell (1-1), C Hayes (0-3), D Ferland (0-1), S O’Brien (0-1 1f), D Fitzgerald (0-1), D Coughlan (0-1).

Clare:
1: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge)

4: Ronan Keane (Killanena)
3: Tony Leyden (Tulla)
2: John Cahill (Clooney/Quin)

5: Shane Woods (Inagh/Kilnamona)
6: James Hegarty (Inagh/Kilnamona)
7: Jamie Moylan (Cratloe)

8: Ronan O’Connor (Feakle)
9: Eoghan Gunning (Broadford)

10: Conor Whelan (Whitegate)
11: Seán Rynne (Inagh/Kilnamona)
12: Ronan Kilroy (Banner)

14: Jack O’Neill (Clooney/Quin)
13: Niall O’Farrell (Broadford)
15: Michael Collins (Clonlara)

Subs:
18: James Organ (Corofin) for Gunning (53)
17: Evan Maxted (Clooney/Quin) for O’Connor (58)

Limerick:
1: Pierce Connery (Kilmallock)

4: Joe Fitzgerald (Monaleen)
3: Darragh Langan (Monaleen)
2: Mikey Fitzgibbon (Cappamore)

5: David Fitzgerald (Kildimo Pallaskenry)
6: Matthew Fitzgerald (Monaleen)
7: Cian Scully (Dromin Athlacca)

9: Con Hayes (Newcastle West)
8: Wayne Kearns (Na Piarsaigh)

10: Robert O’Farrell (Kildimo Pallaskenry)
12: Dara Ferland (Monaleen)
11: Fintan Fitzgerald (Mungret St Paul’s)

15: Oisin O’Farrell (Askeaton/Kilcornan Desmonds)
14: Shane O’Brien (Kilmallock)
13: Hugh Flanagan (Garryspillane)

Subs:
19: Donal Coughlan (Doon) for S O’Brien (42)
23: Mark O’Riordan (Castletown Ballyagran) for O O’Farrell (53)

Referee: Ciaran O’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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