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Shane O Donnell of Clare in action against Conor Boylan of Limerick during their Munster Senior Hurling Championship final at Thurles. Photograph by John Kelly

HURLING: Historymakers Limerick put out lights on Clare’s Munster challenge

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final

Limerick 1-26 Clare 1-20

A power cut delayed the throw-in in Semple Stadium but when the match eventually started, the lights also went out on Clare’s Munster challenge as they deservedly fell to history-makers Limerick who became the first ever team to win six successive provincial crowns, writes Eoin Brennan.

This wasn’t Limerick’s most exceptional Munster decider display but it didn’t have to be as their opponents lacked the collective electricity of their previous two final battles to be able to match the kingpins.

In essence, Limerick’s title-winning knowhow and more consistent balance throughout their side won the day as they brushed off an equalising Peter Duggan goal just before half-time to simply up the ante with a strong surge on the restart that saw the champions outscore their neighbours by 1-5 to 0-2 in the first eleven minutes capped off by Gearoid Hegarty’s 46th minute goal after man-marking confusion in the Clare defence allowed the St Patrick’s man to pull past onrushing goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan at 1-18 to 1-12.

Clare battled on mainly through Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly, David Fitzgerald and Mark Rodgers but the fortune required to make up the ground was absent on this occasion as crucially a Mark Rodgers bullet entering the final quarter frustratingly came back off the right post and out.

If that goal had gone in, it was game on once more as only two points would have separated the sides but instead a relieved Limerick shut up shop and never allowed the Banner to threaten Nickie Quaid’s goalmouth again as they honed in on their historic achievement.

The first period was extremely tense and consequently dour as these familar foes got to grips with each other. 

Level on five occasions in the first quarter alone, Clare did have the chance to put clear daylight between the sides at the midway mark when Mark Rodgers’ burst was offloaded to Aidan McCarthy to pull the trigger, only for Quaid to parry and Diarmaid Byrnes to clear off the line before the Scariff man could finish to the net.

Instead, Clare’s profligacy was increasingly punished by Limerick with chief protagonists Diarmaid Byrnes and David Reidy helping their side to a 0-13 to 0-09 advantage by the half hour mark.

Crucially Clare did ressurect their challenge just before the recess as a monster David Fitzgerald point from his own ’65 was accentuated by that injury-time goal that stemmed from a Kelly free that was flicked goalwards by Peter Duggan. Nickie Quaid stopped it but could only flick his clearance to Duggan to return the ball with interest from an acute angle to the net at 1-10 to 0-13 by the break.

Clare failed to capitalise upon that lifeline which looked incrementally like it just papered over the cracks as Limerick resumed by reclaiming control all too easily.

Clare’s man-marking style did provide space for Limerick to exploit but fundamentally Brian Lohan’s side had too many passengers and missed scoring opportunities to warrant remaining in touch.

The same post that had denied Aron Shanagher in the All-Ireland Semi-Final replay of 2018 would again thwart the Banner but while a goal at that stage may have altered the narrative, there was no denying that on this occasion Clare were second best to a professional Limerick juggernaut that shows no signs of stationing anytime soon.

Limerick: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Barry Nash (South Liberties), Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh), Dan Morrissey (Ahane); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare), Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry): Will O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell); Gearoid Hegarty (St Patrick’s), Cathal O’Neill (Crecora Manister), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Shane O’Brien (Kilmallock)

Subs: Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for Hegarty (22-23, BS), dam English (Doon) for Lynch (53), Boylan for O’Neill (63), Donnacha Ó Dalaigh (Monaleen) for Gillane (68), Aidan O’Connor (Ballybrown) for Reidy (69), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for Morrissey (72)

Scorers: Aaron Gillane (4f), Diarmaid Byrnes (2f) (0-5 each); Gearoid Hegarty (1-2); Tom Morrissey (0-4, 1f); Declan Hannon, David Reidy, Shane O’Brien, Kyle Hayes (0-2 each); Cathal O’Neill, Adam English (0-1 each)

Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Adam Hogan (Feakle), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown), Conor Leen (Corofin); John Conlon (Clonlara), Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe), David McInerney (Tulla); Darragh Lohan (Wolfe Tones), Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge); David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Mark Rodgers (Scariff), Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin); Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg), Tony Kelly (Ballyea)

Subs: Paddy Donnellan (Broadford) for Malone (29-30, BS), David Reidy (Éire Óg) for Lohan (62), Ian Galvin (Clonlara) for McCarthy (63), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones) for Cleary (65)

Scorers: Aidan McCarthy (0-8, 6f); David Fitzgerald (0-4); Peter Duggan (1-1); Tony Kelly (0-3); Mark Rodgers (0-2f); Shane O’Donnell, Ian Galvin (0-1 each)

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)

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