*Patrick Finnernan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

A final flourish of the last five points finally protected Clare’s perfect start to this year’s Munster Minor Hurling Championship in what was an unconventional Shannonside derby in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge.

Clare 0-15
Limerick 0-09
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge

At odds with the free-flowing nature of this grade, a congested middle third made for a dour neighbourly wrestle for supremacy that saw Limerick fail to score from play, with their nine frees matched by an identical haul from play for the Banner.

With much-anticipation for Sunday’s Munster Senior Championship opener between the same pair, there were plenty of links to the flagship side from a Clare persepctive at least, with sons of senior management Matthew Corbett (son of selector Tommy), Conor Ralph (son of coach Ken) and substitute Tadhg Lohan (son of manager Brian) all excelling.

Add in an impressive two point cameo from Paul Rodgers, brother of National Young Hurler of the Year Mark and leadership display from Harry Doherty and the ever-threatening Liam Murphy and there was a lot to like about the Banner’s grit in a difficult and busy battleground.

Indeed, the only downside was an early serious leg injury for captain Marc O’Brien who had starred in last year’s historic Munster and All-Ireland Minor success.

It only seemed to motivate the Banner even further though as they carved out a sleepy Limerick defence three times in as many minutes nearing the end of the opening quarter.

Murphy almost pulled off a cheeky lob on goalkeeper Cathal Dennehy while the lively O’Callaghan’s Mills forward and Conor Ralph were hauled down on their way to goal for the unerr-ing Matthew Corbett to punish at 0-3 to 0-1.

Limerick kept in touch with placed balls for Diarmuid Hurley and Jack Cosgrave but despite a tricky crossfield wind, Clare looked the more balance and threatening as Ralph had a one-handed strike saved at point blank range before a hat-trick of Corbett points ensured a 0-9 to 0-6 interval lead.

Shane Dowling’s Limerick side, who had spent most of their first half, with the majority of their players in defence, were much more aggressive on the resumption as a hat-trick of Hurley frees lowered the deifict to just one by the two-thirds mark at 0-10 to 0-9.

That scoreline would remarkably remain for a further twelve minutes as both sides struggled to find their range under a pressure-cooker battlezone around the centre.

Relievedly it was Clare that finally broke their 16 minute deadlock in the 53rd minute when a foul on warrior Harry Doherty was converted by Corbett. It appeared a weight off Brian O’Connell’s side’s shoulders as Paul Rodgers (2) and Corbett raided for eye-catching points to put five be-tween the sides by the hour mark.

With four minutes of injury-time to come, there would be time for plenty more drama as Harry Doherty’s persistence dispossessed goalkeeper Dennehy to earn a 61st minute penalty that Corbett agonisingly flashed wide of the right post.

Doherty did arrow over the final score to commence a bumper derby weekend on a winning note.

Scorers for Clare: M Corbett 0-8 (6f), P Rodgers 0-2, H Doherty 0-2, Liam Murphy 0-1, Conor Ralph 0-1, Patrick Finneran 0-1

Scorers for Limerick: D Hurley 0-6 (6f), J Cosgrave 0-3 (3f)

Clare
1: Matthew Crotty (Scariff)

2: Darren Moroney (Éire Óg)
3: Sean McNamara (Clooney-Quin)
4: Sean Óg Kilkenny (Bodyke)

5: Dara Kennedy (Ballyea)
6: James Cullinan (Ruan)
7: Rian Mulcahy (Éire Óg)

8: Graham Ball (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield)
9: Matthew Corbett (Clooney-Quin)

12: Harry Doherty (Clarecastle)
11: Patrick Finneran (Clooney-Quin)
10: Darragh McNamara (Clooney-Quin)

13: Conor Ralph (Clarecastle)
14: Marc O’Brien (Cratloe)
15: Liam Murphy (O’Callaghan’s Mills)

Subs:
22: Paul Rodgers (Scariff) for O’Brien (7, inj)
21: Jerry O’Connor (Clooney-Quin) for Ralph (45)
23: Tadhg Lohan (Cratloe) for D. McNamara (49)
20: Michael Vaughan (Broadford) for Finneran (57)
17: Ryan Hayes (Tulla) for Mulcahy (59, inj)

Limerick
1: Cathal Dennehy (Glenroe)

4: Conor Ryan (Adare)
3: Daithi Dennehy (Glenroe)
2: Dennis Blackwell (Ahane)

6: Eoin Brosnan (Na Piarsaigh)
9: Jack Cosgrave (Ahane)
20: Gearoid Enright (Kilmallock)

5: Paul Murphy (Castletown/Ballyagran)
11: Eoghan Maher (Monaleen)

10: Patrick Cagney (Feohanagh/Castlemahon)
13: Danny Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh)
14: Diarmuid Hurley (Hospital/Herbertstown)

18: Tommie Cusack (Murroe/Boher)
19: Jack Fitzgerald (Bruff)
15: Malachy McKenna (Pallasgreen)

Subs
12: Patrick Kearney (Adare) for Fitzgerald (37)
7: Gavin Dorgan (Monagea) for Cusack (40)
8: Liam O’Connor (Templeglantine) for Enright (46, inj)
17: Rory Hanly (Ballybricken/Bohermore) for D. Dennedy (48-51, BS)
24: Conor Ryan (Ahane) for Cagney (53)
21: John O’Connor (Ahane) for for Brosnan (56, inj)
17: Hanly for D.Dennehy (64, BS)

Referee: Shane Scanlon (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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