An experimental Limerick lineup easily dispatched of Clare on Sunday afternoon to book their place in the Munster Senior Hurling League Final against Cork.
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
A first hurling game of the decade for Clare and what a disappointment it was. Come 2029 and the high-points and low-points of the 20s are rolled out, this game won’t feature not because it wasn’t bad but purely as it was so forgettable.
3,312 enthusiastic supporters packed into O’Garney Park for the contest, their eagerness resulted in a sell-out of match programmes but as far as the hurling was concerned, they were left disappointed, the Limerick contingent less so.
Though Limerick completely dominated their opponents, it is fair to label their display as average. They were by far the better team and deserving of the win but one would sense John Kiely would have preferred to get a tougher test in Sixmilebridge.
Their first shot on goal came as a Barry Nash cross-field pass picked out Adrian Breen who controlled the sliotar before leaving Aidan McCarthy on the floor and splitting the posts. Niall Deasy opened Clare’s account from inside the first two minutes but then Limerick responded with eight unanswered scores.
Wing-back Stephen O’Halloran showed some badly required grit as he hopped off two Limerick players, then striking the ball over the bar from the half-back line to temporarily stem the concession of scores. Freetakers David Reidy and Deasy traded efforts but Kiely’s men got complacent as the half wore on allowing the hosts to five of the final seven scores to make it 0-13 0-09 at half-time.
On three occasions in the third quarter, Clare were able to cut the deficit to three points but that would be as good as it got. Tony Kelly squandered a goal chance on forty four minutes when a brilliant Domhnall McMahon pass sent him on his way but he scuffled the shot allowing for a relatively easy save from Barry Hennessy.
No such mistake was made at the other end when Limerick had their first shot on debutant Eibhear Quilligan. Fresh from the sideline, Graeme Mulcahy turned Paidi Fitzpatrick but his shot was stopped by the Feakle netminder but the rebound was pulled on by Reidy who added to his lengthy list of scores.
Fresh faces added required energy to the Clare outfit, they managed a goal of their own on sixty seven minutes when a Tony Kelly dropping ball was flicked to the back of the net by Aron Shanagher but even that would not impact on the complexion of the scoreboard come the final whistle.
John Kiely and his management will have been pleased to see so many of their contingent keen to impress. The leadership was shown by Tom Morrissey and Mike Casey with strong performances shipped by Paddy O’Loughlin, Adrian Breen and Barry Nash. The strength of their panel, their sharper hurling and greater physical strength ensured they were streets ahead.
Lining out in the Munster SHL Final is not the stuff of dreams so while the fixture today is not significant in the big scheme of things, it was the display from Clare’s behalf that is worrying. The mindset of treating every game like an All-Ireland Final certainly was not adapted by anyone wearing the saffron and blue.
Over two thirds of Clare’s starting team would fall into the bracket of being known as fringe players, one would assume these players would have been chomping at the bit to impress Brian Lohan and his management ahead of the Allianz National Hurling League but surprisingly and disappointingly there was little desire shown.
All four substitutes visibly made it known that they wanted to feature more with Stiofan McMahon winning a brilliant turnover off the pacy Barry Nash the clear example of this. Time is on Lohan’s side, now they can focus solely on preparing for the National League which commences on January 26th which will see an improvement from the Banner.
Scorers Limerick: D Reidy (1-12 9f 1’65), A Breen (0-04), T Morrissey (0-04), R Connolly (0-02), J Considine (0-02), R Hanley (0-01), D O’Connell (0-01), D O’Donovan (0-01).
Scorers Clare: N Deasy (0-10 8f 1’65), A Shanagher (1-00), D Ryan (0-02), S O’Halloran (0-01), M O’Neill (0-01), C Guilfoyle (0-01), T Kelly (0-01), L Corry (0-01).
1: Barry Heffernan (Kilmallock)
2: Tom Condon (Knockaderry)
3: Michael Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
4: Aaron Costelloe (Kilmallock)
5: Barry Nash (South Liberties)
6: Dan Morrissey (Ahane)
7: Paddy O’Loughlin (Kilmallock)
9: Robbie Hanley (Kilmallock)
8: Ronan Connolly (Adare)
21: Tom Morrissey (Ahane)
10: Darragh O’Donovan (Doon)
12: Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh)
13: Adrian Breen (Na Piarsaigh)
11: David Reidy (Dromin-Athlaca)
15: Darren O’Connell (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
20: Josh Considine (Patrickswell) for Hanley (51)
22: David Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh) for Boylan (54)
26: Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for O’Connell (55)
18: Brian O’Grady (Kilteely/Dromkeen) for Condon (60)
23: Brian Ryan (South Liberties) for Reidy (64)
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)
2: Paidi Fitzpatrick (Sixmilebridge)
3: Conor Cleary (Kilmaley)
4: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
5: Michael O’Malley (Kilmaley)
6: Jack Browne (Ballyea)
7: Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle)
26: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
9: Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge)
17: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)
11: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin)
12: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
14: Niall Deasy (Ballyea)
15: Colin Guilfoyle (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
13: Michael O’Neill (Kilmaley)
23: Domhnall McMahon (Tubber) for Ryan (43)
24: Stiofan McMahon (Broadford) for O’Neill (43)
21: Gary Cooney (O’Callaghans Mills) for Taylor (54)
25: Liam Corry (Éire Óg) for O’Malley (58)
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary)