Limerick intermediate hurling team lost the Munster final to Clare on a scoreline of 2-15 to 2-13
LIMERICK’S decision to regard this year’s Munster intermediate hurling championship largely as an opportunity to expose potential senior inter-county players of tomorrow to big-game experience has proved a qualified success. The only pity is that a decent opportunity to claim a precious provincial title was lost against old rivals Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis on Wednesday night.
Clare’s first ever success in a Munster intermediate final, before an official attendance of 3,168 paying customers, was deserved, but only just.
There was little between the sides overall, but the home side’s forwards were that bit more clinical in the second half, finding scores more easily to come by than their opponents. It was somewhat ironic that the title-winning hopes of this youthful Limerick side were largely dashed by the oldest player on the pitch, Clare’s former senior inter-county forward Niall Gilligan. The Sixmilebridge clubman - alternating behind full forward and centre half-forward - really stepped up his performance in the second half to finish with seven points in all, including three from play.
Limerick were also left to rue a slow start to the third quarter which saw Clare wrestle the initiative back from their opponents after the Shannonsiders’ had worked so hard to regain it coming up to half-time.
A terrific individual goal from Clare midfielder Ronan Keane in the 34th minute, which helped the home side build a five-point lead early in the second period, proved the catalyst for the home side’s win.
The young Limerick side- featuring up to half a dozen county U-21 players in the starting team- fought valiantly to overcome their opponents, but the combination of a resolute Clare defence and the visitors’ lack of composure in the scoring third of the pitch, resulting in some poor wides, ultimately proved their undoing.
Limerick’s cause was not helped either by the unfortunate absence of a number of players who had played key roles in the semi-final win over Waterford, including injured captain, Donie Reale.
By the time Niall Maher superbly blasted to the net in stoppage time, the chances of Limerick claiming a fourth title in the grade had already receded.
The experience gained from being part of a campaign which ultimately ended in a Munster final appearance should stand to the Limerick players in the years to come. Up to a dozen members of the intermediate squad will be hoping for better fortune when they return to Ennis on Tuesday, July 26 to renew rivalry with Clare in their re-arranged Munster U-21 semi-final showdown.
Clare made a lively start to the decider firing over two early points, the first of which came from the experienced Tony Carmody.
A pointed ’65 from hard-working midfielder Conor Allis saw Limerick open their account soon after, but Clare gained the upperhand soon after with the game’s opening goal.
Wing forward Daire Keane finished superbly after tearing through the heart of the Limerick defence in the 10th minute.
A pointed free from Clare’s decorated full-forward Gilligan soon after helped the home side into a significant 1-4 to 0-2 advantage.
Limerick were in need of some inspiration at the end of the first quarter and it came in the management’s decision to deploy corner forward Tommy Quaid further out the field in a riving role.
The industrious Effin clubman mopped up an amount of ball around midfield and slowly the momentum began to turn in Limerick’s favour.
A well-executed 17th minute goal from corner forward Michael Ryan helped Limerick eat into their opponents’ advantage. And Ryan levelled up matters at 1-4 each soon after.
The teams remained level at half-time, and as Clare had also racked up 9 first half wides, the psychological advantage appeared to be with Limerick.
However, Keane’s early second half goal and a string of points from Gilligan helped the home side build a decent advantage. Limerick simply lacked the firepower to whittle it down over the remaining minutes of the game despite the introduction of several substitutes, including county minor star Shane Dowling, of Na Piarsaigh, and the best efforts of the likes of Denis Moloney, Niall Maher, Conor Allis, Seanie O’Brien, Michael Ryan and Tommy Quaid.
SCORERS - Clare: Niall Gilligan 0-7 (four frees), Daire Keane 1-2, Ronan Keane 1-1, Declan O’Rourke, Padraig Hickey 0-2 each, Anthony Carmody 0-1; Limerick: Conor Allis 0-4 (two ‘65s), Niall Maher and Michael Ryan 1-1 each, Seanie O’Brien and Denis O’Connor (one free) 0-2 each, Sean Madden, Tommy Quaid, Niall Kennedy 0-1 each
CLARE - Andrew Fahy; Marty O’Regan, Patrick Kelly, Alan Brigdale; John Fennessy, Mike Hawes, Kevin Moynihan; Ronan Keane, Shane Golden; Daire Keane, Kevin Dilleen, Tony Carmody; Martin Duggan, Niall Gilligan, Declan O’Rourke. Subs: Mark Early for O’Regan (21 mins), Padraig Hickey for Duggan (36 mins), Joe O’Connor for Dilleen (49 mins).
LIMERICK - Barry Hennessy (Kilmallock); Sean Browne (Newcastle West), John Dillon (Effin), Denis Moloney (Doon); Niall Maher (Doon), Patrick Begley (Mungret), Tom O’Callaghan (Monagea); Conor Allis (Croom), Don Hanley (Knockaderry); Dinny Ahearne (Kilteely-Dromkeen), Sean Madden (Ahane), Seanie O’Brien (Patrickswell); Michael Ryan (Murroe-Boher), Denis O’Connor (Granagh-Ballingarry), Tommy Quaid (Effin). Sub: Niall Kennedy (Granagh-Ballingarry) for Madden (temp 28 mins to ht and 37 mins), Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh) for Hanley (44 mins), Eamon Gleeson (Cappamore) for Ahearne.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork