A crowd of 4,692 turned out to watch Clare churn out a scintillating display as they inflicted a serious beating on Limerick in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC semi-final.
On a sun-soaked evening, they hurled with authority all over the pitch. Save for one glitch which lead to a Limerick first-half goal, Donal Tuohy was a model of composure between the posts while Eamon Glynn and Ciaran Doherty gave sound defensive performances. At midfield Nicky O’Connell was full of terrific endeavour throughout while Caimin Morey and Darach Honan wreaked havoc at various stages in attack.
But they were all eclipsed by the input of left corner-forward Colin Ryan. The Newmarket-on-Fergus man had endured an ineffectual evening for the county seniors last Saturday yet here he managed to tap a rich vein of form.
Ryan departed with a whopping 3-9 total next to his name, shooting points with precision and showing a lethal streak to smash in three goals.
Approaching the interval Limerick were only three points adrift when Shane O’Donnell found the net in the 26th minute, but critically they shipped four points before the break.
Clare embarked on a scoring spree after half-time and despite the determined efforts of Nicky Quaid, Paul Browne and Sean Tobin, the match wound up being an exercise in damage limitation for the Limerick men.
The game began at a blistering pace and the early scoring rates were quite extraordinary. Having divvied out points to begin with, the teams then unleashed a goal blitz.
In the eighth minute Limerick corner-forward Tommy O’Brien placed a bullet into the far corner of the net but the concession never unsettled Clare and their response was devastating.
Within 30 seconds Darach Honan had the ball in the net at the other end of the field and two minutes after Clare banged in another with Caimin Morey making the hard yards to create the simple task for Ryan to goal.
After that cracking opening, Clare had emerged in healthier shape as the proprietors of a 2-6 to 1-4 advantage.
It had become evident that Clare’s inside forward line were eager for action with Ryan and Honan seemingly incapable of missing the target.
Limerick did get an opportune boost through that O’Donnell goal in the 26th minute, after Tommy O’Brien had pressurised Tuohy into dropping the ball. But they failed to build on it and Clare rattled off four late first-half points to lead 2-14 to 2-7.
Limerick needed a spirited and productive opening to the second-half in order to retrieve the situation. They tried to perform corrective surgery by shuffling their defensive cards and introducing captain Brian O’Sullivan.
Yet Clare quickly submerged Limerick with a deluge of scores. Ryan rifled over three pointed frees and though Limerick got on the second-half board through a Tobin placed ball, it was Clare’s leading forward who then produced the acts that killed the game off. In the 39th minute Ryan clinically finished to the net from play and in the 42nd minute he rocketed home a penalty after Morey had been fouled.
That left it 4-19 to 2-8 in Clare’s favour. Limerick registered points through Browne and Tobin, but there was no disputing Clare’s progress and they’ll make a bold bid in two weeks time to land the county’s inaugural Munster U21 hurling crown.
Scorers: for Clare: C Ryan 3-9 (1-0 pen, 0-5f), D Honan 1-4, C Morey, C O’Donovan, N O’Connell (0-1f) 0-2 each, S Collins, L Markham, C Quinn 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: S Tobin 0-7 (0-7f), T O’Brien 1-2, S O’Donnell 1-1, P Browne 0-2, B O’Brien 0-1.
CLARE: D Tuohy; J Gunning, E Glynn, C O’Doherty; D O’Donovan, C Duggan, E Barrett; N O’Connell, L Markham; J Conlon, S Collins, C O’Donovan; D Honan, C Morey, C Ryan. Subs: C Quinn for Markham (40), E Hayes for Morey (53), P Kelly for Barrett (55), C Tierney for Collins (56), C McGrath for Honan (58).
LIMERICK: B Hennessy; B Moloney, D Lynch, J Riordan; B Quinn, P Begley, P O’Loughlin; N Quaid, J Mann; G Mulcahy, B O’Brien, P Browne; T O’Brien, S Tobin, S O’Donnell. Subs: P O’Brien for Riordan (24), B O’Sullivan for Mann (half-time), D Hannon for O’Loughlin (35), J Hayes for Lynch (43), M Kiely for O’Donnell (57).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).