The Limerick footballers crashed out of the Munster championship in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday when they were beaten 1-13 to 0-15 by Clare.
IT was heartbreaking in the end, but this injury time defeat was all of Limerick’s own doing.
Just as they did in the opening game of the championship, Limerick failed to perform in the opening half and this time paid the penalty. Against Waterford in round one, Limerick stuttered through the first half before turning around to add 1-7 to their tally and keep the Deise scoreless for the entire second half.
This time round the dramatic change in fortunes just fell short.
The harsh reality is that Limerick have lost a Munster SFC game to Clare for the first time since 1984 and for the first time since 1998, Limerick have lost a provincial championship tie to a county other than Kerry and Cork.
And, it’s all down to an inept first half. Clearly the lessons of the Waterford game were not learned.
With a game under their belt, all pre-match debate surrounded Limerick gaining an early advantage as Clare got to grips with championship intensity.
But from the off it was Clare (trained by Mungret’s Micheal Cahill and Kildimo’s Eoin O’Brien) that came flying from the traps and had five points on the scoreboard inside the opening 10 minutes.
And that trend was to continue for the entirity of the first half. It was just like the Waterford game and just like the Kerry game last season.
There was no intensity, no work rate, no pace to the play, movement was poor and mentally it was clear that the majority were not ready. Clare were the complete opposite.
Limerick’s cause was not helped when Clare cleaned out the midfield area in the first half with Gary Brennan setting the tone with some superb fielding. Yet time and time again Limerick kicked the ball out to the former UL student. With Limerick unable to win primary possession they were constantly on the back foot and the powerful running of Clare caused all sorts of problems for the defence. By half time it was 1-9 to 0-3.
As bad as Limerick were some of those wides were very scorable and should have cut the Banner lead. And, on top of that there were two clear cut goal chances for Limerick.
On the 15 minute mark, Seamus O’Carroll did well to take on two defenders but his short cracked back off the crossbar and indeed when it fell into the arms of Ger Collins, it returned Limerick’s first score of the game.
Ian Ryan followed with a great finish and moments later he added a free. That left it 0-5 to 0-3 with 20 minutes played. Limerick were not to score again in the half and Clare were bouyant when Gordan Kelly was afforded all the time in the world to score their goal in the 23rd minute.
Limerick should have goaled themselves in injury-time. Again O’Carroll did well to take on the defence along the endline and when he passed across the goal the in-rushing Stephen Kelly somehow guided the ball wide when it appeared almost on the goal line.
As stunning the collapse was in the first half, the comeback was just as stunning. And, the lead had been increased to 10 points just seconds after the restart.
But Clare were not to score again for 20 minutes as Limerick came to life. They matched the Clare hunger, work ethic and intensity and the pity is that Limerick were then the better team.
Ian Ryan was the star man with eight second half points. Four came from play and each demonstrated the benefit of getting fast ball into the attack.
He kicked three successive frees before his first score from play in the second half came in teh 17th minute. It showed all that is good about Limerick with John Riordan and Stephen Lavin leading the defence to disposse Clare and then break at pace. James O’Meara then fed Ryan and he finished with aplomb.
That left it 1-10 to 0-9 and the fight back was certainly underway and the Limerick followers in the crowd of 4,446 could sense something special.
David Tubridy interruped the Limerick scoring but another six unanswered points were to follow.
Just over three minutes from the end Limerick went ahead for the first time with Clare only scoring twice in the half. Limerick should have pushed on but perhaps they took the eye off the ball again.
But Tubridy replied to level once more and with a Ger Collins effort coming off the upright, the Doonbeg man kicked the winner in injury time to send Limerick crashing out.
SCORERS – Limerick: Ian Ryan 0-10 (five frees), Ger Collins 0-2, Seamus O’Carroll, Stephen Kelly, Eoghan O’Connor 0-1 each. Clare: David Tubridy 0-5 (one free, one ’45), Rory Donnelly 0-3, Gordan Kelly 1-0, Shane McGrath 0-2, Ger Quinlan, Gary Brennan, Alan Clohessy 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – Brian Scanlon; Lorcan O’Dwyer, John Riordan, Paudie Browne; Stephen Lavin, John Riordan, Pa Ranahan; Tom Lee, Paul Kinnerk; Iain Corbett, Stephen Kelly, Seanie Buckley; Ger Collins, Seamus O’Carroll, Ian Ryan. Subs: James O’Meara for Kinnerk (27 mins), Eoghan O’Connor for Kelly (52mins), John Cooke for Corbett (55mins), Jim O’Donovan for O’Carroll (61mins), Graham O’Connell for Buckley (71mins).
CLARE – Joe Hayes; Kevin Hartnett, Shane McNeilus, Laurence Healy; Martin McMahon, Gordan Kelly, John Hayes; Gary Brennan, Ger Quinlan; Shane McGrath, Enda Coughlan, Alan Clohessy; Micheal O’Shea, David Tubridy, Rory Donnelly. Subs: Shane Brennan for Quinlan (58mins), Niall Browne for Coughlan (62mins), David Russell for McGrath (64mins), Barry Hartnett for McNeilus (65mins).
REFEREE – Derek Fahy (Longford).