Clare 3-17 Limerick 2-16
By John Fogarty
A superior Clare qualified for their first Munster final in nine years but not without difficulty as a combination of poor shooting and Limerick’s tenacity made them sweat until the end.
Clare led by eight points in both halves and all three of their goals were founded in some sloppy Limerick defending but a Kyle Hayes goal on the stroke of the end of normal time made for more of a nervy ending than was necessary, and Limerick could argue two additional minutes for nine second-half substitutes was scant.
Podge Collins and Tony Kelly were quiet on a day when the likes of Colm Galvin and Conor McGrath were to the fore and it was the latter who put Clare in the driving seat in the 50th minute when Limerick were unable to negotiate Galvin’s long ball.
The goal put Clare six clear and they were eight ahead five minutes later with back-to-back points but then Limerick responded with three of their own.
While Clare regained their composure with another two points, Hayes’ goal kept Limerick’s hopes alive.
David Reidy had chances to kill it off but added to his wide total of six in the second half before James McGrath’s whistle confirmed their victory.
Limerick, who accumulated 11 first-half wides with the wind at their backs, had clawed back an eight-point deficit in the space of five minutes between the 20th and 25th minutes.
Peter Casey scored his team’s first point from play, coming indirectly off a puck-out, as did the next two, both finished off by Cian Lynch; the first initiated by a Dan Morrissey fetch, the second started with a Hayes’ catch after a shot by Casey was saved well by Andrew Fahy.
Fahy was again level to Lynch’s goal-bound strike in the 22nd minute but he was unable to recover in time to stop Dempsey firing to the net in front of the jubilant Limerick crowd on the Town End terrace.
Shane Dowling, who superbly fed Lynch in the build-up to the goal, then posted his third free and the game was all square when Paul Browne added his second point of the game.
Clare scored three points after Shane O’Donnell’s second goal in the 14th minute, which came courtesy of Richie McCarthy not clearing his line and then Mike Casey being caught flat-footed in trying to stop O’Donnell advancing forward.
It followed in a similar vein to how O’Donnell scored his first in the fifth minute when John Conlon’s ball in was not cleared.
Clare allowed Limerick into the game from the 20th minute only to rediscover themselves in the closing stages of the first half when they strung together five points in a row.
Conor Cleary showed the way, O’Donnell sent over his second point and further scores from Reidy (free), Conlon and McGrath followed to give the Banner a 2-10 to 1-8 interval lead.
Scorers for Clare: S. O’Donnell (2-2); C. McGrath (1-3); D. Reidy (0-6, frees); J. Conlon (0-2); C. Galvin, J. McCarthy, S. Morey, I. Galvin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick: S. Dowling (0-7, frees); D. Dempsey, K. Hayes (1-1 each); P. Browne (1 sideline), C. Lynch (0-2 each); P. Casey, B. Nash, P. Ryan (0-1 each).
CLARE: A. Fahy; S. Morey, D. McInerney, P. O’Connor (c); G. O’Connell, C. Cleary, D. Fitzgerald; C. Galvin, D. Reidy; T. Kelly, S. O’Donnell, P. Collins; A. Shanagher, C. McGrath, J. Conlon.
Subs for Clare: J. McCarthy for G. O’Connell (54); I. Galvin for P. Collins (59); A. Cunningham for A. Shanagher (63); C. Malone for C. McGrath (65); C. McInerney for T. Kelly (69).
LIMERICK: N. Quaid; S. Finn, R. McCarthy, M. Casey; D. Morrissey, D. Hannon, S. Hickey; P. Browne, J. Ryan (c); S. Dowling, C. Lynch, D. Dempsey; P. Casey, K. Hayes, G. Mulcahy.
Subs for Limerick: G. O’Mahony for D. Hannon (blood, 25-26); B. Nash for G. Mulcahy (h-t); R. English for M. Casey (41); T. Morrissey for P. Casey (54); A. Gillane for S. Dowling, P. Ryan for J. Ryan (both 58).
Referee: J. McGrath (Westmeath).