With the clock running down in normal time, Limerick trailed Clare by five points, a deficit that would have been much greater had Clare not been so wasteful in the second half (eight wides). However, they kept their cool, none more so than local man and captain-for-the-day Ian Ryan, who tapped over two points to bring them within a goal as the match went into injury-time. In those extra minutes up popped Seamus O’Carroll to fire home the equaliser.
Cruel on Clare, compounded when Limerick then proved the stronger outfit in extra-time, worthy if fortunate winners. “It was one we left slip,” said Clare manager Mick O’Dwyer, “We should definitely have won it in regular time, there’s no doubt about that but we conceded two soft goals. Still, those are the kind of things that will happen at this time of the year. Overall I’m happy enough with the way they played.”
Ironically, his Limerick counterpart, Maurice Horan, also complained of two softly-conceded goals by his side. “We started off very brightly, we were quite satisfied with the first 20 minutes but then for some reason we stopped playing, they were creating overlaps all over the place. The two goals were too soft but after half-time they got only 1-5 for the rest of the game (1-6), including extra-time, so I’m quite happy with that, we contained them better.”
Could be that Maurice is being a little hard on his side there though, on the first goal especially. It came in the 28th minute, Limerick leading 0-6 to 0-5, when corner-forward Podge McMahon just beat Cian Cody to a high centre, his touch beating Brian Scanlon from close range. Clare dominated the rest of the half and led 1-7 to 0-6 at the break.
Clare’s second goal came just after half-time and yes, that one was something of a gift, McMahon left with a simple tap-in after Scanlon dropped the ball at his feet. It put Clare seven points in front, a commanding lead, but it was also to be McMahon’s last act. “We lost a couple of good players, McMahon and Alan Clohessy,” Micko pointed out; “Podge has a hamstring problem, Clohessy hurt his ankle, very unlucky.
No great disappointment on his part, however, that Clare’s interest in the McGrath Cup is over — that’s not where Micko places his emphasis. “No, I never did, did I? That was a good workout, will prepare us for the league — we know now exactly where we stand with a lot of the players we put in today, we’re learning all the time.”
For Horan, the campaign continues, Kerry next Sunday in the semi-final, with the prospect of some very strong and experienced players yet to return.
“All going to plan John Galvin will be back in the middle of March, Jim O’Donovan around the same time, Stephen Lucey hopefully before that. Seanie Buckley will have an MRI on Monday, we don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, something around the hip or groin.
“Our approach this year is that we’re not really experimenting in the McGrath Cup, we’re trying to get as far into the competition as we can. Kerry next now, we’re looking forward to that, you can’t beat that kind of competition.”
Scorers for Limerick: I Ryan 1-7 (4f); S O’Carroll 1-3 (2 45s); E O’Connor 0-2; G Collins 0-2; D O’Connor 0-2.
Scorers for Clare: P McMahon 2-1; D Tubridy 0-5 (3f); I McInerney 0-3 (3f); A Clohessy 0-3 (1f); G Brennan 0-1.
LIMERICK: B Scanlon; C Cody, J McCarthy, M O’Riordan; S Lavin, P Browne, P Ranahan; T Lee, B O’Brien; J Riordan, T O’Meara, S O’Carroll; E O’Connor, G Collins, I Ryan.
Subs: D O’Connor (O’Meara 35); D Treacy (Lee 50); M Sheehan (O’Riordan 54); S Kelly (Collins inj. 60); L O’Dwyer (Cody 62).
Extra-time: D Neville (Nevin 80).
CLARE: J Hayes; S Collins, C Dixon, D Callinan; S Haugh, G Kelly, M McMahon; G Brennan, C O’Connor; A Clohessy, I McInerney, S McGrath; P McMahon, C Talty, D Tubridy.
Subs: C Dunning (Talty inj. 12); M McCarthy (McMahon inj. 52); N Kelly (Clohessy inj. 52); T Downes (Haugh 70); F Hayes (McGrath 71). Blood sub: S McNelis (Collins 44/54).
Extra-time: S Ryan (McCarthy 70); G Quinlan (O’Connor 75).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).