*Aaron Gillane in action with Jack Browne. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Clare have lost their second successive Munster senior hurling championship game in the space of a week, falling down at the expense of All-Ireland champions Limerick in a dreadful display.
Venue: LIT Gaelic Grounds
Before a ball was pucked, everyone involved in the Clare setup had a glorious opportunity laying at their feet. The chance to make amends, not just for last Sunday’s showing versus Tipperary but to right the wrongs of 1996 when as reigning All-Ireland champions, Ciaran Carey would send Ger Loughnane’s side packing out of Munster.
Had they secured a win, the Banner would have dethroned John Kiely’s side. Regrettably, Clare failed to do this and would struggle to gain the upperhand in every single sector of this contest. In over seventy minutes of hurling, Clare hit just four points from play and had three different scorers, Limerick added 1-20 from play via eleven individuals.
In the opening half, only Peter Duggan could muster a score for Clare, eight different players registered on the board for Limerick including all six forwards. The only effort from play coming with twenty nine minutes on the clock, at that stage the hosts had six points from play.
Four key moments in the opening quarter seemed to reflect the way the contest was panning out. Cathal Malone was blocked and turned over, Aaron Gillane nailing Limerick’s first point from play as a result on three minutes. Their captain, Declan Hannon intercepted Peter Duggan on the solo two minutes later preventing an opportunity on goal while on two occasions in the space of four minutes, Bruff’s Sean Finn expertly blocked both Aron Shangher and John Conlon, single-handedly denying Clare 1-01.
Each chance that went a begging on Clare’s behalf would zap further confidence from a side clearly still scarred from the thirteen point loss to Tipperary. The hosts were growing in belief with every passing minute with Aaron Gillane, Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty, Declan Hannon, Tom Morrissey, Graeme Mulcahy, William O’Donoghue and Peter Casey leading them into an eight point half-time advantage.
An Aaron Gillane free was cancelled out by Tony Kelly with Peter Duggan adding to his tally on forty two minutes. The Treaty County then fired six scores on the trot as their supporters among the attendance of 29,611 drowned out their counterparts in a resemblance of what was happening on the field.
Duggan ended a nine minute scoring drought to add another free, he followed this with a sideline cut as Na Piarsaigh’s Peter Casey sandwiched a score in between. Although the result was as good as confirmed with eleven minutes remaining, Aaron Gillane put it beyond doubt with the only goal of the game leaving the Banner defence in his trail before roofing the sliotar to Donal Tuohy’s net.
Colm Galvin and Duggan added points for Clare but as was the constant theme of the day, Limerick did better with Casey, Gillane, Shane Dowling and Darragh O’Donovan all on target.
Losing their only two home games in the 2019 Munster championship was always an unlikely outcome for Limerick. They made sure it did not happen as they bossed their opponents from start to finish. Sean Finn was outstanding in defence and deserved the man of the match accolade, elsewhere Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey and William O’Donoghue stood out. Not alone have Limerick ensured they won’t be eliminated from the Munster championship but have silenced anyone who criticised them in the wake of their first round defeat to Cork.
For the second game in succession, Clare were badly beaten and yet again, puckouts proved to be problematic, winning only 43 percent of their own restarts. This was the county’s biggest championship defeat since the 2011 hammering to Galway in Salthill but a small glimmer of hope remains as far as getting out of Munster, if Clare beat Cork and Limerick overcome Tipperary they will be the third place team and thus advance to the All-Ireland series. Morale is low and needs to rise rapidly plus the effort levels if such a scenario is to occur. Colm Galvin, Cathal Malone and Peter Duggan led the Clare fight, in what was ultimately a nightmare.
That 2011 defeat resulted in a lot of reflection in Clare hurling circles, it would prove to be the game in which Davy Fitzgerald and Louis Mulqueen decided it was time to take the reigns of the senior side. The highpoint of this tenure being the 2013 All-Ireland success. The luxury of time is not on the side of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor, the three-time All-Ireland U21 winning managers face their biggest challenge, lifting a group of players who have never experienced such lowpoints. The duo deserve the opportunity to try this year around, unfortunately for them a failure to do so would tarnish their legacy.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane 1-11 (0-7f, 0-1 65), Peter Casey 0-4, Tom Morrissey 0-3, Gearoid Hegarty 0-2, Graeme Mulcahy 0-2, Shane Dowling 0-1 (0-1f), Declan Hannon 0-1, Kyle Hayes 0-1, William O’Donoghue 0-1, Diarmaid Byrnes 0-1, Darragh O’Donovan 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: Peter Duggan 0-11 (0-8f, 0-1sl), Tony Kelly 0-1, Colm Galvin 0-1.
1. Donal Tuohy (Crusheen)
6. Jack Browne (Ballyea)
3. David McInerney (Tulla)
2. Patrick O’Connor (Tubber) – Captain
5. Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
7. Conor Cleary (St. Joseph’s Miltown)
22. David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)
8. Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge)
9. Colm Galvin (Clonlara)
10. Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin)
11. Tony Kelly (Ballyea) Captain
15. Podge Collins (Cratloe)
24. Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones na Sionna)
14. John Conlon (Clonlara)
13. Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg Inis)
18. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Golden (HT)
12. Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe) for Shanagher (48)
4. Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge) for Fitzgerald (51)
17. Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Collins (57)
20. Niall Deasy (Ballyea) for O’Donnell (65)
1: Nicky Quaid (Effin)
2: Sean Finn (Bruff)
3: Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
4: Richie English (Doon)
5: Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell)
6: Declan Hannon (Adare)
7: Paddy O’Loughlin (Kilmallock)
9: William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh)
8: Cian Lynch (Patrickswell)
10: Gearoid Hegarty (St Patricks)
11: Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
12: Tom Morrissey (Ahane)
13: Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell)
14: Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock)
15: Peter Casey (Na Piarsaigh)
24: Darragh O’Donovan (Doon) for O’Donoghue (55)
20: Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh) for Hegarty (55)
22: Dan Morrissey (Ahane) for Hannon (62)
21: Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh/Castlemahon) for P Casey (62)
26: Pat Ryan (Doon) for Mulcahy (67)
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)