LIMERICK booked their place in the All Ireland hurling quarter-final thanks to a 3-18 to 1-20 win over Clare in Thurles on Saturday night.
At the fifth time of asking this season, Limerick have won a Shannonside derby and are back in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship quarter-final.
Defeats to Clare in the Waterford Crystal Cup and Allianz League were cast aside as Limerick demonstrated that the goals that followed against Laois and Antrim in the previous rounds have not dried up.
At the final whistle of this end-to-end, high octane, high tension knockout game the sides had shared 42 scores.
Since last February John Allen has preached that his side needed to find a killer instint and it was the three goals that proved the difference as Limerick took their tally to 17 goals in their three game unbeaten run.
In front of 20, 142 spectators in Thurles, it was Limerick that laid an early foundation with a superb goal from Wayne McNamara.
Clare led 0-2 to 0-1 with three minutes on the clock when the wing back soloed upfield. A slip on the drizzle covered surface saw him loose possession but he stayed in attack and when the sliothar broke free from a crowd he drove forward again and from 25metres crashed off his left to the net.
Either side were points from Niall Moran.
But Clare were not daunted by the concession of the early score and their all-action attack were causing problems for Limerick. Time after time their forwards were popping up in space to score. Just 10-minutes had lapsed and the scoreboard read 1-3 to 0-5.
Nickie Quaid denied Clare a ninth minute goal when advancing to save brilliantly from Aaron Cunningham.
At the other end Graeme Mulcahy ended 10-minutes without a Limerick score to maintain the lead for the men in green. The lead could have been greater but for a fine Patrick Kelly save from Sean Tobin in the 15th minute.
Frees from Shane Dowling and Gavin O’Mahony had Limerick 1-6 to 0-6 clear with 20-minutes played.
Dowling then stood over a 21-metre free and went for goal but his effort was saved. As bodies pilled into the goalmouth in search of the rebound tensions boiled over, briefly. That appeared to motivate Clare and they hit seven successive points in as many minutes to snatch a 0-13 to 1-6 lead.
Limerick were yearning for half time but there was to be another twist before the interval.
A Dowling free steadied Limerick after a barren spell of 13-minutes.
Then a long free from O’Mahony found its way to the net thanks to Sean Tobin. The corner forward timed his run perfectly and crept in behind all in a crowed goalmouth to climb high and connect brilliantly with a superb overhead pull.
It was somewhat against the run of play but when Dowling added another two frees, Limerick went to the half time dressing room 2-9 to 0-14 ahead.
Clare did try for a goal of their own before the break but a Kelly shot for goal from a 21-metre free was diverted over by Quaid and O’Mahony.
In previous games this season, Clare had run Limerick ragid in the second half. Intent on setting the record straight, Limerick hurled much better in the second half with midfield and the half back line getting on top.
Just like the first half there was an early goal. This time in the fourth minute and from sub Declan Hannon. He made a support run from right half forward and ended up in the left corner forward position at the right time to finish to the net after Breen and Moran created the opening.
Moran fired over two quick points and Mulcahy another and all of a sudden the lead was 3-12 to 0-15.
Dowling and McGrath swapped free as Clare had to wait 15-minutes for a score from play.
With 20-minutes to play it was 3-15 to 0-18 and bizzarley the next 14-minutes didnt yield a score.
Twice Quaid again denied Clare. Firstly from Darch Honan and then again from a Kelly free.
A Dowling free edged Limerick closer to teh winning line but Clare were not finished and Kelly finally found the net with a 21-metre free three minutes from time.
But Kevin Downes and Dowling’s eighth free edged Limerick over the line.
Limerick will now play Waterford or Kilkenny in the All Ireland quarter-final on the weekend of July 28/29.
SCORERS - Limerick: Shane Dowling 0-8 (all frees), Niall Moran 0-5, Sean Tobin 1-1, Wayne McNamara, Declan Hannon 1-0 each, Graeme Mulcahy 0-2, Gavin O’Mahony (free), Kevin Downes 0-1 each. Clare: Conor McGrath 0-6 (four frees), Tony Kelly 1-2 (1-1 frees), Nicky O’Connell 0-4 (three frees, one ’65), Colm Galvin 0-3, John Conlon 0-2, Aaron Cunningham, Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony; James Ryan, Paudie O’Brien; Shane Dowling, Brian Geary, David Breen; Graeme Mulcahy, Niall Moran, Sean Tobin. Subs: Declan Hannon for Geary (28mins), Kevin Downes for Tobin (59mins), Shane O’Neill for Condon, inj (59mins), Seamus Hickey for Ryan (61mins), Tom Ryan for Mulcahy (69mins).
CLARE – Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O’Donovan, Cian Dillon, Seadna Morey; Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan, Nicky O’Connell; Colm Galvin, Sean Collins; Fergal Lynch, John Conlon, Tony Kelly; Aaron Cunningham, Darach Honan, Conor McGrath. Subs: Liam Markham for Collins (49mins), Colin Ryan for Cunningham (63mins), Jonathan Clancy for Honan (64mins).
REFEREE – Brian Gavin (Offaly).