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Photograph by John Kelly

HURLING: An extra step too far for brilliant Banner


Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final
Limerick 1-29 Clare 0-29

PRIDE definitely overruled disappointment as a gallant Clare left everything on the field in a titanic Munster Final bid that had to go all the way to extra-time before finally having to succumb to holders Limerick in FBD Semple Stadium Thurles, writes Eoin Brennan.
Any questions surrounding Clare’s readiness to take on the three-in-a-row champions were quickly answered as Brian Lohan’s warriors not only went toe-to-toe with Limerick for the third successive outing but with a slice of luck might have even snuck a victory in normal time.
True to character, the relentless effort and spirit never waned in extra-time but unfortunately the legs did somewhat as a warweary Clare were finally edged out coming down the final straight.
For Clare to finish without four of their starting forwards inciting the god-like Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan left Clare rather light physically and experienced-wise in contrast to Limerick whose fresh legs helped to drag them relievedly over the line.
Clare captain Tony Kelly was exceptional throughout and finished with 0-13, seven of which stemmed from play while David Fitzgerald, Ryan Taylor, Paul Flanagan and John Conlon were other major leaders in what was an epic pressure-cooker showpiece final.
On the flip side, Seamus Flanagan’s eight point haul certainly boosted Limerick’s challenge at crucial junctures along with Aaron Gillane’s placed balls while Gearoid Hegarty’s sole score in the 27th minute were also pivotal when firing to the net to reel in a dominant Clare at 1-9 to 0-12.
In truth, there was little to separate the sides at any stage in what was an utterly compelling blow-for-blow heavyweight contest throughout. Indeed, the sides were level on a whopping 14 occasions in normal time while there was never more than a puck of the ball between the sides until Limerick substitutes Conor Boylan and David Reidy nudged Limerick four in front in the 86th minute.
Deadlocked at half-time, extra-time seemed an inevitable prospect until Limerick captain inspirationally dissected the posts two minutes into injury-time to inch his side in front. However, despite the weight of a county on his shoulders, Tony Kelly admirably stepped up to a last gasp sideline in the left corner to somehow force the additional periods at 0-24 to 1-21.
That was as good as it got for the Banner however as Gillane (2) and Flanagan hit the ground running in extra-time to ensure that Clare were always playing catch-up.
They did lower the areas to the minimum twice at the start of the second period but couldn’t sustain yet another rallying call as Limerick prevailed to complete a fourth successive Munster crown.
A fifth Shannonside derby of 2022 is not beyond the bounds of possibility but in order to kindle that flame, Clare will have to pick up the pieces quickly as they now turn their attentions to the All-Ireland series, with the winners of Kerry and Wexford their opponents at the quarter-final stage in a fortnight’s time.

Limerick: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Barry Nash (South Liberties), Sean Finn (Bruff), Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare), Dan Morrissey (Ahane); William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), Darragh O’Donovan (Doon); Gearoid Hegarty (St Patrick’s), Cathal O’Neill (Crecora Manister), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Seamus Flanagan (Feohanagh/Castlemahon) Subs: Richie English (Doon) for Casey (56, inj), David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca) for O’Neill (57), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for O’Donovan (63), Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for T. Morrissey (64), Oisin O’Reilly (Kilmallock) for Hegarty (87)

Scorers: Aaron Gillane (0-10, 7f); Seamus Flanagan (0-8); Gearoid Hegarty (1-0); Tom Morrissey (0-3); Cathal O’Neill (0-2); Diarmaid Byrnes (f), Darragh O’Donovan, Declan Hannon, Conor Boylan, David Reidy, Will O’Donoghue (0-1 each)

Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown), Paul Flanagan (Ballyea); Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe), John Conlon (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla); Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin); David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg); Ian Galvin (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), David Reidy (Éire Óg) Subs: Shane Meehan (Banner) for Galvin (55), Robin Mounsey (Ruan) for Reidy (63), Cian Nolan (Smith O’Brien’s) for Flanagan (69, inj), Mark Rodgers (Scariff) for Ryan (70), Reidy for O’Donnell (83), Patrick Crotty (Scariff) for Duggan (86), Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge) for Kelly (87, inj)

Scorers: Tony Kelly (0-13, 5f, 1/sl); David Fitzgerald (0-5); Peter Duggan (0-4, 3f, 1/s/l); Ryan Taylor, (0-3); Mark Rodgers (0-2, 1f); Ian Galvin, Shane Meehan (0-1 each)

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)

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