Limerick go the extra as Clare are left to rue late collapse

WITH less than two minutes remaining in normal time in the floodlit Gaelic Grounds last night, Clare had this Munster championship U21 first-round game all but won.

Five points ahead (0-12 to 1-4), playing with discipline and control though facing a gale-force wind, they headed into the three signalled minutes of injury time in good shape.

As normal time expired, Clare were reduced to 14 men with the dismissal of star player Podge Collins for a second yellow card. Limerick had reduced the deficit to just a goal following a pair of points from free-taker Eoghan O’Connor, but Clare were still in pole position.

Cue James Kelly, brother of senior star Stephen; as the Clare defence went temporarily to sleep, he latched on to a fast free from O’Connor and blasted home from close range — tie game, 2-6 to 0-12, into extra-time we headed.

Earlier on, Limerick had began well playing into the gale, leading 1-2 to 0-3 after 14 minutes thanks to a goal from powerful full-forward Jack Donovan. Thereafter, however, it was Clare dominating both possession and the scoreboard to lead at the break by a point (0-7 to 1-3), inside forwards Podge McMahon (1), Cathal McInerney (2) and Killian Malone (2) doing the bulk of the scoring.

It didn’t seem to be enough of a lead given the strength of the wind, but the first 11 minutes of the second half saw the Banner hit a purple patch, five unanswered points (Malone with three from placed balls, McInerney with the other two), and suddenly the emphasis had shifted.

Where it looked like Clare would be the team under the cosh for the second half, Limerick now found themselves under pressure, six points behind with only quarter of an hour to go.

It didn’t help their cause that it was a free-ridden affair, stop-start from beginning to end. Referee Conor Lane saw fit to award a total of 72 frees in the game, a dozen yellow cards, two of which were converted to red — Podge Collins for Clare, Mike Sheehan for Limerick.

In such circumstances, getting up a head of steam to get the scores necessary was going to prove difficult, and thus Limerick were making no inroads whatsoever into the Clare lead as full-time approached. Then, that finish, O’Connor’s two points and Kelly’s goal, and Limerick were had a lifeline, into extra-time.

Limerick again faced into the gale for the first period, but again Clare chiselled out a one-point half-time lead (0-15 to 2-8), the points coming from McInerney, Collins and substitute Daniel Gallery, who blasted over from point-blank range, a goal at his mercy. It would prove a costly miss.

This time, on the changeover, Limerick weren’t to be denied. Three points they kicked, senior star O’Connor (2) and Kelly (1) the ones delivering. It could have been a more emphatic win, had sub Jamie Richardson’s blaster not hit the cross-bar, but it was still enough, and Limerick now advance to meet Kerry in the semi-final on Wednesday week.

Scorers for Limerick: E O’Connor 0-7 (0-5f); J Kelly 1-1; J Donovan 1-1; S O’Carroll, D Kelly, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare: C McInerney 0-6 (0-3f); K Malone 0-5 (0-3f); P McMahon 0-2 (-0-1f); P Collins, D Gallery 0-1 each.

LIMERICK: B Scanlon; P Martin, M Sheehan, R O’Flaherty; P Sheehan, P Hannon, P Quinn; T McCarthy, P Horan; S O’Carroll, J Kelly, D Kelly (c); E O’Connor, J Donovan, P O’Donnell.

Subs: B Ryan for Horan (39); P Scanlon for O’Donnell (45); A O’Sullivan for Quinn (inj. 53); E Cahill for Ryan (inj. 55); J Richardson for D Kelly (59).

Extra-time: P O’Connor (additional player 60); P Quinn for Martin (79).

CLARE: J Joyce; J Blake, S Brennan, S Cormican; S Collins, L Markham, S Tierney; C Ryan, S Brennan; P Collins, M Malone, C Cormican; P McMahon, C McInerney, K Malone.

Subs: D O’Neill for C Cormican (30); J Curtin for M Malone (45).

Extra-time: S Crotty (additional player, 60); D Gallery for K Malone (inj. 64).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).

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