*Clare’s Jamie Moylan. Photograph: Eoin Brennan
Limerick proved the dominant force when punishing a below-par Clare to keep up their flawless start to the Munster Minor Hurling Championship in TUS Gaelic Grounds Limerick on Tuesday evening.
Venue: TUS Gaelic Grounds, Limerick
Leading from the first to last whistle, the hosts had a clinical edge over their surprisingly out-of-sorts opponents who never replicated the energy of their opening bout against Tipperary.
Limerick were by far the sharper side in the opening period as their slicker movement and composure opened up a six point cushion which could and should have been much more only for some profligacy from placed balls.
Indeed, Clare were extremely fortunate to only be four points in arrears by the break such was their succession of uncharacteristic unforced turnovers and frustrating indiscipline.
Limerick laid down an early marker when after only two minutes, the quick thinking hosts worked a defensive free to Sean Duff to cut in from the left and bat to the net at 1-1 to 0-1.
They arguably should have doubled their bounty immediately afterwards but a Dara Ferland shot was blocked by the body of Mark O’Connor.
Clare did settled with placed balls for Marc O’Brien (2) and a beauty from Sean Arthur to lessen the damage to two by the tenth minute. However, their repeated handling errors allowed Limerick to stretch the gap to six entering the second quarter.
Fortunately for Clare, two different free takers missed scores for the hosts which provided a glimmer of hope that Clare capitalised upon as Sean Arthur, Michael Collins, Fred Hegarty and Jack Mescall helped their side to four of the last six points at 1-13 to 0-12 by the break.
With time to regroup, the Clare were a much improved side on the restart but three early wides proved costly when Robert O’Farrell drove in from 45 metres to rattle the net at the other end at 2-13 to 0-12 in the 36th minute.
Clare could have dropped their heads but did demonstrate tremendous resolve to pick themselves up off the canvass. Five unanswered points in nine minutes through O’Brien (2), Mescall, Fred Hegarty and Michael Power began a stirring fightback that gathered momentum when O’Brien’s free was bettered as Sean Arthur fired the restart back over the Limerick bar at 2-14 to 0-19 in the 49th minute.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the exertions of their rally ensured that they were unable to sustain such a high tempo for the remainder as instead, Limerick got a second wind and repaired the damage with the next four points.
Substitute James Hegarty, O’Brien and Collins kept up the pressure right until the death but in truth Clare never looked like getting a match-saving goal. Limerick held on with lively replacement Patrick Kearney providing the insurance point in injury-time to move to the top of the table ahead of a three week recess.
Clare meanwhile, apart from the immense full-back unit of captain Eoghan Gunning, Ronan Keane and Eoin Carey, appeared a little warweary despite only being their second outing. They do have a two week break to recharge the batteries before recommencing with a trip to bottom side Waterford.
Scorers for Limerick: Darren Collopy (0-10, 9f); Hugh Flanagan (0-5); Sean Duff, Robert O’Farrell (1-0 each); Patrick Kearney (0-2); Tadhg Boddy, Dara Ferland, Jack Cosgrove (f) (0-1 each)
Scorers for Clare: Marc O’Brien (0-8, 7f); Michael Collins (0-3), Sean Arthur (0-3), Fred Hegarty (0-3, 1f); Jack Mescall (0-2 each); Eoin Ogie Fanning, Michael Power, James Hegarty (f) (0-1 each)
1: Joe Fitzgerald (Kildimo/Pallaskenry)
2: John O’Keeffe (Na Piarsaigh)
3: Conor Bickford (Ahane)
4: Sean Morrissey (Dromin-Athlacca)
5: Jack Cosgrove (Ahane)
6: Sean Casey (Bruff)
7: Cian Scully (Monaleen)
8: Diarmuid Lyons (Newscastle West)
9: Matthew Fitzgerald (Monaleen)
10: Robert O’Farrell (Kildimo/Pallaskenry)
11: Dara Ferland (Monaleen)
12: Tadhg Boddy (Bruff)
13: Hugh Flanagan (Garryspillane)
14: Sean Duff (Mungret St Paul’s)
15: Darren Collopy (Murroe/Boher)
20: Michael Leo (Knockainey) for Lyons (45)
24: Patrick Kearney (Adare) for Duff (47)
18: Darragh Gleeson (Adare) for Cosgrove (56)
19: Oisin Holmes (Murroe-Boher) for O’Farrell (59)
1: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge)
4: Eoin Carey (Cratloe)
3: Ronan Keane (Killanena)
2: Eoghan Gunning (Broadford)
7: Jamie Moylan (Cratloe)
6: Mark O’Connor (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield)
5: Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge)
8: Eoin Ogie Fanning (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield)
9: Ronan Kilroy (Banner)
12: Sean Arthur (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
11: Fred Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona)
10: Michael Collins (Clonlara)
13: Jack Mescall (Inagh-Kilnamona)
14: Marc O’Brien (Cratloe)
15: Michael Power (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
19: James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona) for O’Connor (23)
20: Harry Doherty (Clarecastle) for Kilroy (HT)
24: Emmet Mulcahy (Tulla) for Fanning (45)
22: Eoin Begley (Clonlara) for Mescall (45)
23: Conor Ralph (Clarecastle) for F. Hegarty (51)
Referee: Seaghan Walsh (Waterford)