Donnellan delivers winner for Clare

It has taken two games, but with this win at floodlit Gaelic Grounds last night, Clare finally booked their berth in the Waterford Crystal SH Tournament semi-final, and an early competitive meeting on Sunday for manager Davy Fitzgerald against his old team, Waterford.

With the teams tied 2-12 to 1-15 as we headed into the one minute of signalled additional time, Limerick had three half-chances of points, all missed, before midfielder Bryan Donnellan finally sealed the deal for Clare.

Worthy winners they were too, but while it was Donnellan with the winning score, the real heroes on the night for Clare were full-back Cian Dillon and returning corner-forward Tony Carmody.

Fielding a vastly different starting 15 from last Saturday night’s marathon, Clare started strongly, but nobody more so than Carmody, who announced his return to the big stage with 1-1 inside four minutes, the goal taken with aplomb from close range.

Limerick then settled and a run of five unanswered points took them into the lead by the 15th minute, Declan Hannon continuing where he left off in Sixmilebridge on Saturday and notching four of those.

It was tit-for-tat for the next ten minutes, four points apiece, Hannon still on target but Graeme Mulcahy also with a fine strike for Limerick, while Padraig Hickey had two for the Banner, John Conlon and midfielder Bryan Donnellan with the other two.

Then came Clare’s second major and once again Carmody was involved, using his strength to win possession, his guile to lay off the scoring pass for new full-forward Ross Horan. A further point apiece before the break left it 2-6 to 0-10.

Limerick made the early running after the break with points from substitute Donal O’Grady and the inevitable Hannon tying it up yet again. Clare then took the initiative, three points on the trot from placed balls from the Hickey, but a goal from Brian Geary in the 54th minute made it all square once again.

Geary, centre-back linchpin for Limerick for so many years, was introduced at full-forward in the drawn game to try to match the power of Cian Dillon, was brought on here again in the same position and for the same reason in the 23rd minute. However, he was very much playing second fiddle to the Crusheen crusher on both occasions. His goal, however, was a consolation, and was also his last act of the game, a hamstring injury forcing his retirement.

Clare responded well to the goal, and points from fine young midfielder Colm Galvin and John Conlon had them two ahead in the 60th minute.

Yet again, back came Limerick and Declan Hannon’s two points looked to be enough to take the game to yet another period of extra-time. Not to be, however, and after two fine contests, Donnellan had the final say for Clare.

Scorers for Clare: P Hickey 0-6 (0-5f, 0-1 65); T Carmody 1-1; R Horan 1-0; J Conlon 0-2; B Donnellan 0-2; C Galvin, J McInerney (f), 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: D Hannon 0-9 (0-4f, 0-2 65s); B Gavin 1-0; M Ryan 0-2; D Moloney, G Mulcahy, M Carmody, D O’Grady, 0-1 each.

CLARE: D Fahy; M Earley, C Dillon, S Morey; C O’Doherty, J McInerney, S O’Halloran; C Galvin, B Donnellan; J Clancy, J Conlon, D Russell; T Carmody, R Horan, P Hickey.

Subs: P Duggan (Russell 38); A Cunninghan (Hickey 61); P Donnellan (O’Doherty 63); F Lynch (Horan 66).

LIMERICK: A Murphy; S Walsh, T Condon, S O’Neill; B O’Sullivan, G O’Mahony, D Moloney; T Ryan, J Ryan; D Hannon, N Maher, G Mulcahy; M Carmody, N Moran, M Ryan.

Subs: B Geary (Moran 23); D O’Grady (T Ryan 35); M Carr (O’Sullivan 35); E Gleeson (Geary inj. 55); K Loftus (Maher 66).

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).

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