*Pearse Lillis made a return to the Clare team. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Two points separated Limerick and Clare as they began their McGrath Cup campaigns on Sunday afternoon with the Treaty County emerging as deserving winners.
Venue: Mick Neville Park, Rathkeale
Four starting debutants in the guises of Ciarán Morrissey, Cillian Rouine, Joseph McGann and Ciarán Downes were part of a new look Clare team that showed patience is required before they will fully gel together.
For the first time since 2007, Gary Brennan is not part of the Banner panel. His many quality traits will be missed throughout the year but the former captain’s presence was noticeable due to the needless bitching that was visible amongst men in saffron and blue whenever mistakes were made up front, the onus is on the more experienced players to guarantee that such conduct does not creep into the county setup.
With fresh faces in the mix, it will take time for Clare to find their rhythm in 2019 and for the new additions to become fully accustomed to the style of play being pushed by Colm Collins and his management. On occasion, they were afraid to have a go themselves and instead looked for more experienced players to have a shot on goal, a total of ten wides were kicked in total so both new and old were guilty of poor shooting.
A fortuitous penalty was awarded to the visitors on twenty two minutes when Eoin Cleary was tackled by Limerick goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan. The resulting effort was dispatched by Keelan Sexton to put Clare in front for the first and only time. Prior to this, white flags from Pat Begley, Tony McCarthy and Jamie Lee rendered a Cleary free meaningless. Lee and Cleary completed the first half scoring with three and two points respectively leaving the sides all square at the break.
Limerick again got going quicker and kicked four scores in succession through Adrian Enright, Seamus O’Carroll and a Cillian Fahy double. Sexton got Clare off the mark with forty nine minutes on the clock, a well-worked move involving Emmet McMahon and Pearse Lillis ended with Cleary teeing up Sexton who raised his second green flag.
Frees from Sexton and substitute Aidan Davidson had Collins’ men back on level terms with ten minutes of normal time remaining. However during this spell, only Pearse Lillis would register another score for Clare while Billy Lee’s outfit powered on via Danny Neville, Jamie Lee and Iain Corbett efforts.
Regardless of who won or lost, very little will be read into the actual outcome of this contest. Limerick will be pleased to get their year off to a winning start and for a Division 4 side to beat a Division 2 outfit is a nice psychological boost. Goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan pulled off two excellent saves in the closing moments to deny Keelan Sexton and Eoin Cleary, he along with Jamie Lee, Cillian Fahy and Adrian Enright impressed for the winners.
Benefits were obtained from the outing for Colm Collins and his management. They are now aware of the level of work some of the fresh faces have to undergo if they are to compete for regular or recurring roles, Pearse Lillis at centre back showed he is an option to wear six and players all over Clare are now aware the emphasis placed on the club championships with some St Breckans players rewarded for their intermediate exploits. Kevin Harnett was excellent at full-back, Lillis and Cathal O’Connor did well in front of him.
Scorers Limerick: J Lee (0-06 4f), C Fahy (0-01), P Begley (0-01), T McCarthy (0-01), A Enright (0-01), D Neville (0-01 1f), I Corbett (0-01)
Scorers Clare: K Sexton (2-01 1’Pen If), E Cleary (0-03 2f 1’45), A Davidson (0-01 1f), P Lillis (0-01).
1: Donal O’Sullivan (Monaleen)
17: Paul Maher (Adare)
3: Brian Fanning (Pallasgreen)
18: Luke Murphy (Monaleen)
7: Tony McCarthy (Kildimo/Pallaskenry)
6: Iain Corbett (Newcastle West)
5: Robbie Childs (Galtee Gaels)
8: Tommy Griffin (Gerald Griffins)
9: Josh Ryan (Oola)
10: Padraig De Brúin (Firies)
11: Cillian Fahy (Dromcollogher/Broadford)
12: Seamus O’Carroll (Castleknock)
13: Jamie Lee (Newcastle West)
14: Pat Begley (Mungret St Pauls)
15: Danny Neville (Ballysteen)
2: Gareth Noonan (Dromcollogher/Broadford) for Maher (29) (Inj)
23: Hugh Bourke for Begley (HT)
9: Josh Ryan (Oola) for Griffin (53)
25: Davy Lyons (Adare) for Fanning (54)
21: Ryan Glynn (Bruff) for De Brúin (63)
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)
2: Ciarán Morrissey (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
3: Kevin Harnett (Meelick)
4: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis)
5: Dean Ryan (Na Fianna)
6: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)
7: Conall Ó hÁiniféin (Éire Óg)
8: Ciarán Russell (Kilmacud Crokes)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
10: Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
12: Ciarán Downes (Kilmihil)
13: Martin O’Leary (Kilmihil)
14: Joseph McGann (St Breckans)
22: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
17: Aidan Davidson (St Breckans) for O’Leary (44)
24: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart) for Downes (48)
21: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora) for Collins (49)
26: Darren O’Neill (St Olafs) for McGann (56)
25: Dale Masterson (St Breckans) for Rouine (57)
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)