Hannon to the rescue for Limerick

A virtuoso display from teenage star Declan Hannon denied Clare a merited home win in Sixmilebridge in a marathon Waterford Crystal quarter-final on Saturday evening.

The sides were tied at the end of the regulation 70 minutes, 0-13 (Clare) to 1-10 (Limerick), the deadly Hannon with 1-8 for the visitors. They were still deadlocked after 20 minutes of extra-time on 0-17 to 1-14 apiece, with Hannon landing three more points. A further 10 minutes was still not enough to separate two big-hearted teams, just a point apiece added as both defences were increasingly dominant in heavy conditions.

Referee Cathal McAllister had seen enough, and though the programme unequivocally stated that extra-time would be played ‘until a result is achieved’, two and a half hours after play had started McAllister signalled an end to proceedings.

The replay has been fixed for tomorrow evening at the Gaelic Grounds (7pm) and on the evidence of this display, it deserves a bumper crowd.

Looking sharper and hungrier than their visitors, Clare led by three points at the end of the opening half (0-7 to 0-4). Midfielders Nicky O’Connell and Pat Donnellan had a point apiece from play, corner-forwards Eoin Hayes and Jonny Clancy likewise while tricky full-forward Aaron Cunningham (2) and O’Connell (1) had the other Clare points from placed balls. Hannon hit four (two 65s, two frees) for Limerick.

Clare maintained that gap until the 60th minute (0-11 to 0-8) when Hannon — after good work by Mark Carmody and Jim Bob Ryan — was pulled down in the box in the act of goaling. The Adare youngster bounced up and drilled home the resultant penalty to tie the game.

Twice Clare regained the lead, twice they were hauled back.

Into our first period of extra-time and again it was Clare nosing ahead with a pointed free apiece from O’Connell and Cunningham, but Hannon, beating off the close attention of three defenders, pulled one back for Limerick before half-time.

Twice more in the second half of extra-time Clare again edged two points in front, substitute John Conlon getting a huge cheer for an angled point on his home ground (set up by Cunningham), but with another McNamara point and two from the superb Hannon, Limerick again came back to tie.

Referee McAllister was headed for the dressing room but was stopped and informed that a further period of extra-time had to be played. So off we went again. To their great credit not a single player on either team showed any slackening off of effort with neither side prepared to lose a game into which they had put so much effort.

Two minutes into the second extra-time, the 92nd minute of action, Limerick went ahead for the first time in the match, a point from wing-forward Conor Allis but Aaron Cunningham cancelled that within minutes. It proved the final score of a hugely entertaining encounter.

“Declan Hannon has everything,” said John Allen in this his first competitive outing as Limerick manager. “He’s after filling out, he’s now a lot bigger physically, strong; he’s two-sided, a fine free-taker, his work-rate has radically improved over the last two months. He is a really good player.”

Not that John’s satisfaction was confined to one player, nor should it have been. “We had a very weakened side out and Clare had done so well last weekend. It would have been a very bad start for us if we had been at the receiving end of a bad beating. For that reason I’m very pleased with the result, very pleased with the work-rate and the effort, the sheer will to win the fellas showed was heartwarming.”

Equally pleased was Clare first-year manager Davy Fitzgerald. “We’re delighted. Of course we wanted to win it and so did they. We played a different style tonight, we wanted to see how we would get on and we got on all right with it. Tonight wouldn’t have suited a lot of our fellas — we have a lot of young fellas and small fellas but it was good in that we didn’t back down. They’ve beaten us the last few times we met competitively so we stopped the rot. The (league) game in three weeks is the game. They will be at full tilt and so will we. They will reckon they will have the edge, probably should have won an All-Ireland quarter-final last year, we are meant to be a good bit off that. Hopefully we’ll have bridged the gap.”

Scorers for Clare: N O’Connell 0-7 (0-3f, 0-1 65); A Cunningham 0-6 (0-6f); P Donnellan 0-2; E Hayes, J Clancy, J Conlon, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: D Hannon 1-11 (1-0p, 0-5f, 0-2 65s); C Allis 0-2; W McNamara 0-2.

CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney; J McInerney, E Barrett, S Morey; N O’Connell, P Donnellan; C Chaplin, D Keane, F Lynch; E Hayes, A Cunningham, J Clancy.

Subs: C Galvin (Hayes 50); J Conlon (Keane 56); P Kelly (Chaplin 95).

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, T Condon, S O’Neill; B O’Sullivan, W McNamara, T Ryan; D O’Grady, C Allis; D Hannon, J Ryan, N Maher; M Carmody, T Quaid, E Gleeson.

Subs: G Mulcahy (T Quaid 29); G O’Mahony (Maher 45); T O’Callaghan (O’Sullivan 45); B Geary (Gleeson 55); D Moloney (Walsh 80), M Carr (Ryan 98).

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

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