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Clare captain Tony Kelly surges past Limerick’s Darragh O’Donovan with the ball. Photography by Eugene McCafferty

HURLING: Points divided but Clare can take the plaudits

National Hurling League Division 1 Round 4

Clare 0-18 Limerick 0-18

THE spoils may have been shared but in many ways it seemed as good as a victory for Clare who simply needed to draw a line in the sand against their Shannonside neighbours, reports Eoin Brennan.

Ahead of their Munster Championship showdown in two months time back in Cusack Park, a healthy crowd of 10,016 came in anticipation of a real derby battle and they wouldn’t be disappointed even if the intensity levels weren’t always conducive to free-scoring feats.

Still, while the result could have gone either way, the mere fact that Clare left Cusack Park feeling as if they left a golden opportunity behind them will only aid their motivation for the ultimate mid-May rematch.

After all, with Clare having suffered a nine point reverse to the back-to-back All-Ireland champions six weeks earlier in the Munster Cup Final, Limerick arrived in Ennis with an even stronger side including eleven survivors from the team that start last August’s All-Ireland decider against Cork.

Clare meanwhile could only field nine of the side that faced the Rebels in the qualifiers as Diarmuid Ryan and Aron Shanagher joined the home side’s already overcrowded treatment table.

Thanks to the first three points through scorers-in-chief Aaron Gillane, Diarmaid Byrnes and Tom Morrissey, Limerick managed to keep their noses in front for the entire opening half despite the best efforts of Tony Kelly who tallied six points. David Fitzgerald also have a goal controversially ruled out for a square ball when flicking a Shane Meehan centre to the net in the 21st minute.

The Carlow match official continued to be the centre of attention throughout as every possession was magnified in such an anxious wrestle for control.

Aaron Gillane’s unerring placed balls ensured a 0-11 to 0-09 half-time lead for Limerick but would be incrementally outflanked by the home side as the second half developed.

Robin Mounsey agonisingly saw a goal chance flash just wide of the top right corner of the net but undeterred, the Ruan clubman would arrow over an inspirational lineball from the left wing while Tony Kelly tacked on four further points to finally reel in the visitors at 0-14 to 0-14 by the 49th minute.

David Fitzgerald nudged the Banner in front for the very first time in the next passage of play, a pattern that would be replicated twice more before the final whistle as Clare looked the most likely to snatch all the points.

Limerick persisted and resisted though, with Diarmaid Byrnes twice coming to his side’s aid to stop the rot at 0-17 to 0-17 by the 59th minute.

A plethora of wides from both sides dominated the rest of normal time as neither side could grasp the game by the scruff of the neck. Clare did have a brief numerical advantage when Aaron Gillane was dismissed for a second yellow in the 66th minute but after a monster Tony Kelly injury-time free, Jack Browne would follow suit as Limerick levelled up the tie for the fourth and final time through a David Reidy free in the 73rd minute.

The result means that Clare’s Division 1 status is secured while Limerick have a winner-takes-all final round tie against Offaly to avoid the relegation play-off.

More importantly though, there are two months to grow your nails before Clare and Limerick renew acquaintances in the Munster Championship because unquestionably, you’ll need them.

Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones); Jack Browne (Ballyea), John Conlon (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla); Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge), Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona); Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin); Shane Meehan (Banner), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Robin Mounsey (Ruan) Subs: Patrick Crotty (Scariff) for Mounsey (52), Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin) for Golden (54), Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills) for Meehan (59), Paddy Donnellan (Broadford) for McCarthy (63)

Scorers: Tony Kelly (0-11, 8f); David Fitzgerald (0-2); Cathal Malone, Shane Meehan, Ryan Taylor, Robin Mounsey (sl), Jason McCarthy (0-1 each)

Limerick: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Barry Nash (South Liberties), Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Richie English (Doon); Diarmaid Byrnes (Patrickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare), Colin Coughlan (Ballybrown); William O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), Darragh O’Donovan (Doon); Gearoid Hegarty (St. Patrick’s), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); Cathal O’Neill (Crecora Manister), Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Adam English (Doon) Subs: Ronan Connolly (Adare) for Hannon (29, inj), Brian O’Grady (Kilteely/Dromkeen) for O’Donovan (53) Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for Hegarty (55), Pat Ryan (Doon) for English (61), David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca) for T. Morrissey (65)

Scorers: Aaron Gillane (0-7, 6f); Diarmaid Byrnes (0-5, 3f); Tom Morrissey (0-2); Gearoid Hegarty, Cathal O’Neill, Adam English, David Reidy (f) (0-1 each)

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)

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