Clare secured a provincial minor football semi-final date against title-holders Kerry on May 11, when they overcame Limerick in the opening round of the Munster Minor Football Championship at Hennessy Park in Miltown on Wednesday evening.
Unlucky not to have been more than two points ahead at half-time, Clare were under pressure for much of a second half, in which Limerick hit 12 wides, bringing their total for the evening to 15.
It was fitting that Clare full-forward, Joseph McGann should kick what proved to be the winning point. The St Breckan’s player caused a lot of problems for Limerick all evening and he finished as joint top-scorer for the winners, alongside his clubmate, Padraig Kelly.
Clare had the better of matters in the opening 20 minutes, at the end of which they held a four-point advantage and their lead could have been greater.
Indeed, there were calls for a penalty for the home side in the very first minute, as Joseph McGann jinked his way past a number of defenders before being dispossessed in the square.
The St Breckan’s clubman threatened danger every time he won possession but the ball-handling of the Clare players let them down on a number of occasions in the opening half, as conditions were very slippery, following a heavy shower midway through the half.
Sean Rouine opened the scoring in the sixth minute and further Clare points followed from Dermot Coughlan, Padraig Kelly (free) and McGann, as the Banner side opened a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 17 minutes.
A further three minutes went by before the visitors opened their account, centre-back Adam Kearns hitting the target. Disaster struck for Clare three minutes later, when they lost possession and Limerick launched a counter-attack, which saw Clare goalie, Mark Lillis make an excellent save from Noel Callinan, only for James Ryan to tap the rebound into an empty net.
Clare regained control for the remaining five minutes and added points from McGann and another Padraig Kelly free to lead 0-6 to 1-1 at the break.
Limerick pointed within a minute of the resumption but they had to wait until the end of the third quarter for the equaliser. A minute into the final quarter, they went in front and they looked to be taking a grip on proceedings but Clare responded strongly. Points from Kelly (free) and Dermot Coughlan had the home side back in front with 12 minutes remaining.
A Conor O’Grady free levelled the tie with three minutes to play and extra time looked likely but McGann landed the winner a minute from the end of normal time and Clare held firm in the three minutes of injury time that followed.
The winners’ defence did very well throughout, with team captain, Damian O’Loughlin leading by example. Elsewhere, Darragh Bohannon, until injured, Padraig Kelly, Dermot Coughlan and Joseph McGann got through a lot of work.
Since the team was announced on Monday, there has been much talk concerning the absence of Cooraclare’s Jack Morrissey from the squad. Asked about this, team manager, Kieran Kelleher said, “Jack didn’t make himself available. He withdrew from the squad.”
Clare: Mark Lillis (Cooraclare); Peter Collins (Doora-Barefield), Jonah Culligan (Ballyvaughan), Damian O’Loughlin (Corofin, captain); Cillian Flaherty (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Andrew Shannon (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Rowan Danaher (St Breckan’s); Darragh Bohannon (Shannon Gaels), Padraig Kelly (St Breckan’s); Ross O’Doherty (Ennistymon), Ciaran O’Donoghue (Cooraclare), Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry-Ibrickane); Sean Rouine (Ennistymon), Joseph McGann (St Breckan’s), Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg).
Subs: Tom Hannon (Doora-Barefield) for Shannon (black card, 37 minutes), Danny Griffin (Éire Óg) for Bohannon (injured, 43 minutes), Conor Lynch (Clondegad) for O’Doherty (51 minutes), Diarmuid Meade (Miltown St Joseph’s) for Cooney (62 minutes).
Scorers: Joseph McGann, Padraig Kelly (2f), 0-3 each; Dermot Coughlan (0-2); Sean Rouine (0-1).
Limerick: Aaron Murphy; Gearóid Brennan, Fionn Murphy, Daniel Enright; Seamus Hurley, Adam Kearns, Oran Collins; Josh Ryan, Diarmuid Kelly; Eoin O’Mahony, Colm McSweeney, Noel Callinan; Anthony Barret, Adam Storan, James Ryan.
Subs: Conor O’Grady for Callinan (29 minutes), Sean Ryan for Barrett (53 minutes), Eoghan Carew for Collins (56 minutes).
Scorers: James Ryan (1-0); Eoin O’ Mahoney (0-2); Conor O’Grady (free); Adam Kearns, Adam Storan (0-1) each.
Referee: David Murnane (Cork).