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Catastrophe in Cusack Park

Patrick O’Connor of Clare in action against Wayne McNamara of Limerick. Photograph by John KellyLimerick 2-9
Clare 0-6

Clare followers may not have been oozing confidence ahead of last Sunday’s National Hurling League Division 2 opening round game against neighbours Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis but few expected such a terrible performance from the home side.

 

Outplayed throughout the field, Clare were fortunate to only nine points behind at the end of 70 minutes and unless there is a huge improvement, the chances of winning promotion from the division this season look bleak.
A return of just one point from play in 70 minutes highlights how comprehensively beaten the home side were in a game which was played in very difficult weather conditions.
As the Shannonsiders choose not to participate in the Waterford Crystal tournament last month, there was no indication of how they were going under their new management team headed up by Cork’s Donal O’Grady. That said, the Clare squad would surely have known that they were in for a stiff challenge as Limerick always raise their game when they come up against Clare.
Given all the controversy last season when so many players refused to play for the county while Justin McCarthy remained in charge, there was little doubt but that all involved in the current set up would be determined to get their competitive campaign off to a good start.
Inclement weather conditions made it difficult for both sides but there is no denying that Limerick deserved their success. They were in control throughout the pitch with their defence and midfield particularly dominant. Far too often Clare players were second to the ball and when in possession, took the wrong option. The absence of experience was evident and manager Ger O’Loughlin had a huge task in hand if he is to get the side back into division 1.
Clare created the first goal opportunity but Darach Honan’s effort for a goal in the third minute was saved by Nicky Quaid. A minute later Limerick made no mistake when they got a goal opportunity and Ritchie McCarthy blasted to the net from a penalty awarded for a foul on Graeme McCarthy.
The game was nine minutes old before Clare had their opening score when Conor McGrath converted a 20m free. This turned out to be the home side’s only score of the opening half.
It was 0-4 to 0-1 in the winner’s favour when Limerick struck for what was a major blow to Clare hopes. Full-forward Kevin Downes, a member of the Ard Scoil Rís winning team last year and now a first year student at NUI Galway, showed wonder skill with a deft pass to Graeme Mulcahy who gave Donal Tuohy no chance with a powerful shot. The goal helped Limerick to lead 2-4 to 0-1 at half time.
Clare returned for the second half with a much-changed team. Conor Cooney was at full back with Mark Earley in for his league debut at corner-back. James McInerney was now on the wing releasing Domhnaill O’Donovan to team up with his Clonlara clubmate Nicky O’Connell at midfield.
Up front Fergal Lynch was now on the 40 flanked by John Conlon and Patrick O’Connor while Darach Honan was at full-forward flanked by Cratloe’s Cathal McInerney and Conor McGrath.
Clare scored first when Fergal Lynch pointed after taking a pass from Conor McGrath and this was to prove the home side’s only score from play. With McInerney and Dillon battling hard in defence, Clare enjoyed their best spell and by the end of the third quarter had narrowed the Limerick lead to two goals, 0-5 to 2-5.
However, they were unable to break down a strong and tight marking Limerick backline in which David Moloney excelled in the left corner. At the turn of the final quarter Graeme Mulcahy waltzed through the Clare defence for an excellent point and when Donal O’Grady had a like score a few minutes later any faint hopes of a Clare rally disappeared.
Further changes to the Clare line up with the introduction of Caimin Morey, Cormac O’Donovan and Sean Collins failed to bring about a change and Limerick ran out easy winners, leaving Clare with a huge task on their hands if they are to achieve their target of winning promotion back to division 1 at the end of this campaign.
The Clare attack was always struggling against the winner’s backline and, for the most part, were second to the ball.
One can only wonder whether or not the outcome would have been different had Honan managed to score either or both of the goal chances which came his way but such was Limerick’s dominance throughout the field that its unlikely that the final result would have changed.
Such was the dominance of the Limerick backs and midfield that their forward line got a plentiful supply of ball.
The Clare backs battled hard throughout with Cian Dillon and James McInerney getting through a lot of work. Nicky O’Connell also worked hard while John Conlon did well in the opening half. Conor McGrath showed some nice touches but the quality of ball coming in to the Cratloe man wasn’t good

Limerick; Nicky Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Stephen Lucey, David Moloney; Wayne McNamara, Stephen Hickey, David Breen; Donal O’Grady, Paul Browne; Ritchie McCarthy James Ryan. Niall Moran; Andrew O’Shaughnessy Kevin Downes, Graeme Mulcahy.
Subs: Sean Tobin for O’Shaughnessy (63 minutes); Niall Maher for Moran (69 minutes).
Scorers: Ritchie McCarthy (1-5, 1-4 f); Graeme Mulcahy (1-1); Donal O’Grady, Kevin Downes, James Ryan (0-1 each).
Frees for: 18; wides: 8
Bookings: Wayne McNamara (11 minutes).
Clare: Donal Tuohy; Eamonn Glynn, James McInerney, Conor Cooney; Domhnaill O’Donovan, Cian Dillon, Pat Donnellan; Nicky O’Connell, Colin Ryan; Fergal Lynch, John Conlon, Patrick O’Connor; Darach Honan, Diarmuid McMahon, Conor McGrath;
Subs: Cathal McInerney for McMahon (31 minutes); Mark Earley for Ryan (half time); Caimin Morey for Lynch (57 minutes); Cormac O’Donovan for Conlon (65 minutes); Sean Collins for Honan (70 minutes).
Scorers: Nicky O’Connell (1f, 1 ’65); Conor McGrath, (2f); James McInerney (1f); Fergal Lynch (0-1).
Frees for: 17; wides: 10; ‘65s: 2
Bookings: Darach Honan (17 minutes), Nicky O’Connell (29 minutes); Patrick O’Connor (40 minutes); Cian Dillon (43 minutes).
n Referee: Johnnie Ryan, Tipperary.

We were ‘awful’ says manager
An “awful embarrassing performance,” was how Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin described Sunday’s display.
“It’s a pity for the fine crowd that came to the game and we can only apologise for that. I thought we would be a lot better,” he said after the final whistle.
O’Loughlin added, “We didn’t get out of the blocks at all. Conditions weren’t ideal in the first half but we were playing second fiddle and that’s what disappointed me big time.
“I thought we had an awful lot of work done in pre-league and challenge matches but we didn’t bring it to the park at all today. We were playing from behind a lot of the time. We lost our shape big time. It’s awful embarrassing.”
“the Limerick backs were physically strong and their full-back came out with ball and we weren’t able to hold them in there and make them play the ball. They were creating the extra man and we made them look very good.”
Asked if Clare’s lack of experience was a big factor in the result, he said, “we can’t be holding that excuse all the time. What I wanted today was a display of heart and attitude and we didn’t get it. We have to say we are rightly in division 2 with that sort of display and we deserve to be there.”
Continuing he said “we let a lot of people down today with our display. I thought we would do a lot better than that. We have to take it as it is and re-group. It’s a bitter pill to swallow now. The bottom line is we played second fiddle.
“We played from behind and that wasn’t the plan. In fairness to Limerick they came and did what they had to. We didn’t stand up to them. We have no excuses to offer. We have had a lot of matches. I thought we would play a lot better. We were just diabolical.”
Looking ahead to next Sunday’s game with Antrim in Casement Park, the Clare manager said it is now a very important fixture.
“We have to travel to Antrim and try and grind out a result up there. We will have to improve by 100% and if we don’t we will struggle. It’s a very hard place to go and win. Our backs are to the wall,” he said.
Meanwhile, Limerick boss Donal O’Grady praised his charges for their workrate on the day.
“The result goes down to workrate. There is an awful lot of credit due to the lads who worked very hard. We have only been training since January 2 and I said last week I wasn’t sure where we were at.
“Now I am not sure where Clare are at either because you are not sure what the attitude of opponents are. Clare might have been short a few players. We are happy with the win because it takes the pressure off. Two points is important in the first match. Jerry Wallis has done excellent work with them since we have come in in January. We are pleased with the performance.”
Asked about the dominance of his defence he replied that, “when it’s wet and there are very heavy showers it favours the defence. It may not be the same the next day. This win makes going back training on Tuesday night that bit easier.
“We reckoned that this was a very difficult game for us. We were looking for a performance and you couldn’t fault the lads. Everybody worked very very hard. I don’t know where we are going to end up but we will take it one game at a time. It was a tough one to start but I really don’t know how intent Clare were on winning,” said the Cork man.

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