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*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE ARE THROUGH to the Munster senior hurling final with their epic draw with Limerick ensuring the two counties will meet again.

Clare 0-24
Limerick 1-21
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Rarely has there ever been a captain’s performance for Clare as brilliant as what Tony Kelly produced in the fourth round of the Munster SHC. The Ballyea ace finished the contest with 0-16 to his name, his reading of the breaks made his four points from play look easy but he slotted two frees from his own sixty yard line in the opening half in what simply were outstanding scores.

There was no doubt that Clare were always going to bring the fight to Limerick, and that they duly did. The attendance of 18,129 were treated to a proper championship spectacle and they will be hoping the repeat clash in the Munster final lives up to this standard.

If ever there was a moment that showed the hosts were not going to give an inch to the All-Ireland champions, it was demonstrated by John Conlon. When David Reidy was beckoned to the sideline by ex Clare coach Paul Kinnerk to receive an instruction, the centre-back from Clonlara duly followed and even managed to get in the middle of Kinnerk and Reidy, it prompted a reaction from John Kiely with the Limerick manager clearly irked by the stance.

Throughout the game, the sides were tied on fourteen occasions, seven times in each half. Limerick started the better in a scoring sense but they were matched for every tackle and breaking ball by their dear neighbours. With ten minutes played, Limerick led 0-05 0-03 but a trio of points from Kelly shoved Clare ahead for the first time with the clock reading fourteen minutes.

Just as they nudged in front, Limerick’s puckout from Nickie Quaid was plucked from the sky by Conor Boylan, he took on the Banner defence and was hooked by Diarmuid Ryan while bearing down on goal but he managed to offload to Kyle Hayes and the towering forward made no mistake to stick the sliotar past Eibhear Quilligan.

Like their attitude all day, Clare’s response was superb as they fired the next four points to go back ahead. Limerick would steady with Diarmaid Byrnes, Tom Morrissey and Gearoid Hegarty all splitting the posts. Frees at either end via Kelly and David Reidy left the half-time score at 0-15 1-12.

On the restart, the nip and tuck nature of the contest continued to flow, with neither outfit allowed to gain a sizeable advantage. Two points seemed to be as it would get for either county, David McInerney among the Clare scorers when they went 0-20 1-15 clear on fifty minutes.

Limerick replied with the next three white flags to regain the momentum and stayed in front until Ryan Taylor equalised on sixty minutes.

By the sixty fourth minute, Limerick were reduced to fourteen men when Gearoid Hegarty was sent off for a second bookable offence after getting involved with temporary substitute Aaron Fitzgerald. Doon’s Darragh O’Donovan followed this with an excellent score to put John Kiely’s men ahead but Clare replied via championship debutant Shane Meehan.

Ryan Taylor again pointed when it mattered, the Clooney/Quin notching his second score of the evening approaching additional time but it would finish all square when Byrnes made no mistake as was the case all da with a placed ball.

Brian Lohan’s Clare were never going to back down from Limerick and that certainly materialised in Cusack Park, aided every step of the way by a powerful home support who showed their ability to drone out the Green Machine’s fan club. Kelly was immense, Conor Cleary gave arguably his greatest display at senior inter-county level curbing the influence of danger man Kyle Hayes, Rory Hayes has ensured an All Star nomination is definitely on the cards with David Fitzgerald, David McInerney, John Conlon and Shane O’Donnell other key figures in bringing the fight and workrate.

Without the injured trio of Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane and Cathal O’Neill, Limerick’s strength in depth was tested, questions were asked of their attack which they didn’t respond to with flying colours. Mike Casey produced a fine performance, keeping the on-form Peter Duggan scoreless, William O’Donoghue, Gearoid Hegarty, Sean Finn and Darragh O’Donovan when introduced made vital contributions.

A Munster Final between the two counties is on the horizon, future meetings are possible and John Kiely and his management team are likely to only want to meet Clare in the provincial decider in order to keep their All-Ireland aspirations on track. Waterford come to Cusack Park needing a win on May 22nd to advance from Munster.

Scorers Clare: Tony Kelly 0-16 (10frees, 1 ’65), David Fitzgerald and Diarmuid Ryan and Ryan Taylor 0-2 each, David McInerney and Shane Meehan 0-1 each.

Scorers Limerick: Diarmaid Byrnes 0-9 (7frees, 1 ’65), Gearoid Hegarty and David Reidy (4frees), Kyle Hayes 1-0, Seamus Flanagan, Tom Morrissey, Oisin O’Reilly and Darragh O’Donovan 0-1 each.

1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)

4: Paul Flanagan (Ballyea)
3: Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
2: Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)

5: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6: John Conlon (Clonlara)
7: David McInerney (Tulla)

10: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
22: Jason McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)

8: David Fitzgerald (Inagh/Kilnamona)
12: Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg)
15: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin)

11: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
14: Peter Duggan (Clooney/Quin)
13: Robin Mounsey (Ruan)

19: Shane Meehan (Banner) for McCarthy (HT)
26: David Reidy (Éire Óg) for Mounsey (46)
25: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) for Duggan (72)

1: Nickie Quaid (Effin)

2: Sean Finn (Bruff)
3: Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
4: Barry Nash (South Liberties)

5: Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)
6: Declan Hannon (Adare)
7: Dan Morrissey (Ahane)

23: Robbie Hanley (Kilmallock)
8: William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh)

10: Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks)
12: Tom Morrissey (Ahane)
26: David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca).

14: Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh-Castlemahon)
11: Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
18: Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh)

15: Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for Boylan (53)
9: Darragh O’Donovan (Doon) for Hanley (56)
25: Oisin O’Reilly (Kilmallock) for Flanagan (56)

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)


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