DONAL O'GRADY: Quality was mixed but Munster first round contests are all about winning

The first half at Semple Stadium didn’t provide a great deal of entertainment, although the second was a distinct improvement.

But this is a results-driven business and Limerick manager TJ Ryan will be more than happy with the win yesterday.

Having dominated the opening period, the Treaty were only a point ahead at the break. The match progressed along the same lines after half-time.

Limerick’s defence looked in control with their extra man, driving forward and linking with midfield, using short crisp passes to good effect. Clare full-forward Shane O’Donnell did trouble his marker continually, but he didn’t get enough supply.

The Banner will rue the concession of so many frees in scoring areas as ultimately it was Shane Dowling’s ability from placed balls that got Limerick home.

A first-round game is all about winning and moving on. It was a tough game, physically and mentally, and Limerick’s management will be more than happy with their debutants, particularly Cian Lynch.

Lynch knocked over three points and won a number of frees, looking very comfortable at this level. On this display, he has the brightest of futures ahead of him.

Limerick’s tactics allowed Lynch to have the freedom of the left wing as Paul Browne, named on the programme at left-half forward, played a withdrawn role, as did Donal O Grady on the other wing.

Both dropped deep into their own defence, operating as wide covering midfielders. Clare’s Jack Browne followed Browne religiously. This left acres of space around Lynch and marker Domhnall O’Donovan, the last thing any inside defender needs.

Limerick played a lot of crossed balls to this area and Lynch came out on top in this battle. O’Donovan struggles at times as a man-marker and is best attacking the ball.

Clare had Pat O’Connor as a sweeper in front of his full-back Cian Dillon. It might have been more beneficial to move Connor onto Lynch and leave O’Donovan in the free role to pick up the breaks.

Two avoidable incidents cost Clare dear. Pat Donnellan was sent off seconds before half-time and in the 52nd minute a high delivery caused a mix-up in the Clare defence, handing Graeme Mulcahy a simple tap-in goal.

Clare keeper Kelly had made a smart save from Cian Lynch 10 minutes earlier but otherwise he was seldom threatened.

Clare were guilty of poor discipline, handing their opponents numerous point-scoring opportunities from frees while Limerick gave away no scoreable free in the second half.

With 15 minutes left, the teams were down to 14 v 14. Pat O’Connor had been playing as an orthodox wing-back from half-time as they were down a man.

Quality was mixed but Munster first round contests are all about winning

But following Sean Tobin’s sending off, Clare dropped O’Connor back into the sweeper role he had filled in the first half.

Clare were going well at that stage and sticking with a conventional defence might have been been a better option.

In the last 15 minutes, Clare needed to feed the excellent Shane O’Donnell, but Pat O’Connor and Séadna Morey were guilty of poor deliveries forward under no pressure, when a little composure might have proved profitable.

Both managers will have been happy with their moves from the bench.

Aaron Cunningham was introduced by manager Davy Fitzgerald after 15 minutes of the second half and he energised the Clare comeback.

He made an immediate impact, weaving his way through for a superb goal that gave Clare hope and serving up another first-class effort later to move them within a point.

Adare’s John Fitzgibbon was introduced by TJ Ryan with five minutes left and struck the winning point, while sub Wayne McNamara shored up the defence, making some telling defensive plays in the dying minutes.

Confusion reigned in Tom Semple’s field yesterday over a scored free.

There is no Hawkeye available in Thurles, but the video technology available could be used by a respected TMO, perhaps a former referee who could aid the referee and umpires if requested, by adjudicating on contentious scores or incidents.

This might take a little time but isn’t a correct decision more important than a short stoppage in play?

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