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Magnificent minors bridge 23-year gap

Magnificent minors bridge 23-year gap

Clare 3-13   Limerick 0-12

FOR up to half an hour after the final whistle at the Gaelic Grounds on Wednesday evening, Clare supporters, the team and management celebrated in an ecstatic huddle. For the first time in 23 years, a Clare minor football team will play in a Munster minor football final this summer.

Managed by Seamus Clancy, they produced a superb second-half display, outscoring Limerick 2-8 to 0-2. It took Clare almost four minutes longer than Limerick to emerge for the second half and referee David Murnane almost deafened the 1,007 attendance with his increasingly shrill blowing of his whistle. However, Clare were justified in taking their time at that point. They emerged a different team and immediately took the game to Limerick.

Ironically, they did the same thing at the start of the first half and led 1-2 to 0-2 after five minutes. Paudie Kelly deflected home the goal, after it was put on a plate for him by Gavin Cooney. Worryingly, Clare only added 0-3 to their first-half tally in the 25 minutes that followed. Cooney deflected home an early second-half goal himself, latching onto a Gearóid Cahill delivery. That goal put Clare into a 2-5 to 0-10 lead and seemed to deflate Limerick.

Crucially, Clare maintained a good tempo for most of the second half and squeezed Limerick, who simply had no answer. Substitute Ross O’Doherty put away Clare’s third goal, as the game veered towards injury time. Limerick’s best player, Rory O’Brien, was their only second-half scorer, with 0-2, such was Clare’s dominance.

It should not be forgotten, though, as Clare prepare to meet Kerry in the July 2 Munster final, that once Limerick got to grips with Clare in the first half, they kicked some sublime scores, with wing-forward Rory O’Brien pointing 0-4. Clare were held scoreless for a 10-minute spell, until Gavin Cooney angled over a free from an acute angle. An O’Brien brace left Limerick leading by two points at half-time. Limerick were marginal favourites at half-time but Clare used their time in the interval dressing room effectively and emerged with the clear intention of not letting this opportunity slip by them.

Not alone will Clare compete in a provincial final, whatever the result, they will play in an All-Ireland quarter-final, which will be a mammoth boost to Clare football, 25 years after the county captured their last Munster senior championship crown. Seamus Clancy was a key man that year and the All-Star corner-back has infused this team with the drive and enthusiasm he showed while wearing the county jersey.

On an exceptional evening for the game in this county, full-back Jayme O’Sullivan was simply superb, while Gavin Cooney performed to a similar level in the full-forward line. Paudie Kelly, Diarmuid Ryan, Seán Rouine and Gearóid Cahill also excelled, as Clare competed in their fourth championship game of 2017.

Clare: Mark Lillis (Cooraclare); Jack Sheedy (St Breckan’s), Jayme O’Sullivan (Wolfe Tones), Joe Miniter (Kilrush); Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe), Fergal Donnellan (Cooraclare), Keith Whyte (Inagh-Kilnamona); Conor McMahon (Cratloe), Danny Griffin (Éire Óg); Paudie Kelly (St Breckan’s), Sean Rouine (Ennistymon), Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane, captain); Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg), Ciarán O’Donoghue (Cooraclare), Gearóid Cahill (Corofin).
Subs: Conor Dillon (Ennistymon) for Conor McMahon (half-time), Ross O’Doherty (Ennistymon) for Ciarán O’Donoghue (40), Rian Considine (Cratloe) for Gearóid Cahill (55), Aaron O’Brien (St Breckan’s) for Danny Griffin (58) and Billy Clancy (Kilrush) for Dermot Coughlan (59).
Scorers: Gavin Cooney (1-6, 2f), Paudie Kelly (1-2, 1 45’), Ross O’Doherty (1-0), Gearóid Cahill and Diarmuid Ryan (0-2 each) and Dermot Coughlan (0-1).
Wides: 11; frees for: 14.
Limerick: Cian Walsh (St Senan’s); Mark Quinlan (Galbally), Eoin Burke (St Kieran’s), Cillian Ferris (Ballysteen); Pádraig Power (Rathkeale), Jack Fitzgerald (Adare), James Cummins (Galbally); Karl Moloney (captain, Crecora/Manister), Liam Kennedy (St Kieran’s); Barry Coleman (Rathkeale), Noel Callanan (St Kieran’s), Rory O’Brien (Fr Casey’s); Adam Costelloe (Banogue), Colm Moran (Mungret, St Paul’s), Sean Ryan (Athea).
Subs: David Burke (Mungret, St Paul’s) for Noel Callahan (47), Calvin Moran (St Patrick’s) for Seán Ryan (51), Paul Collins (Crecora/Manister) for Adam Costelloe (56) and Adam Shier (Ballybricken/Bohermore) for Rory O’Brien (59).
Scorers: Rory O’Brien (0-6, 2f), Seán Ryan (0-2), Karl Moloney, Barry Coleman, Adam Costelloe and Pádraig Power (0-1 each).
Wides: 3; frees for: 12.
Referee: David Murnane, Cork.

Peter O’Connell

For the first time in 23 years, a Clare minor football team will play in a Munster minor football final this summer.

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