Clare survive gut-check as Cork date looms

Clare 0-15 Limerick 0-13: THERE were but fleeting mentions of Cork.

Clare survive gut-check as Cork date looms

Munster football championship victories aren’t so frequent for Clare football that they were going to fold away Saturday’s win, tick their opening box of summer and immediately shift focus to a semi-final date on June 14.

By the same token, however, victory over Limerick does not represent completion of their provincial goals. Clare’s graph is rising and so too is confidence they can at least match Cork when they arrive into Páirc Uí Rinn next month - and not Páirc Uí Chaoimh as someone put it to selector Ephie Fitzgerald.

“Páirc Uí Rinn, you mean. Páirc Uí Chaoimh was being dug up the last I heard,” joked the Clare coach.

“We know full well we are up against it in Cork. They have a fairly formidable forward line.

“We are going down there with a proper attitude, we will prepare as best we can and give it our best shot.”

Indeed, Clare’s semi-final team is likely to bear a very different complexion to that which lined out at Cusack Park on Saturday.

Clare hurler-turned-footballer Davy O’Halloran got onto a decent amount of possession in the half-forward line when introduced, while inside, second-half replacements Rory Donnelly and Cathal McInerney kicked the final four points to suppress Limerick’s frantic efforts for an equaliser.

Donnelly’s first on 52 minutes interrupted the visitor’s most fruitful spell of dominance and with midfielder Gearoid Hegarty redeployed to the edge of the square, they peppered the Clare full-back line with probing delivery after probing delivery.

Limerick wing-back Stephen Cahill punched over to reduce the margin to three points (0-12 to 0-9) and how unlucky they were not to gain parity in the subsequent action, Danny Neville’s delivery fisted inches wide by the rising Hegarty.

Unperturbed, the lively Ian Ryan and Cian Sheehan cut the deficit to the minimum. The Clare supporters, dominating the crowd of 4,520 grew anxious.

Their first-half performance had been built on the midfield supremacy of Cathal O’Connor and Gary Brennan, but the pair’s influence waned considerably at the change of ends as Limerick assumed control both in their half-back and half-forward lines.

Inside, Ian Ryan had Clare in all sorts of bother – the corner-forward raising three white flags.

On 59 minutes were Clare successful in frustrating their opponent’s comeback bid. Podge Collins carried the ball deep into opposition territory, off-loaded to Donnelly and the Cooraclare forward kicked his second to establish a two-point cushion. Breathing space.

Twice more would the Treaty men chip the home side’s advantage down to the minimum – Ryan and goalkeeper Brian Scanlon (’45) on target.

Twice would Cathal McInerney step up to the plate. His 66th minute free was crucial in steepening the challenge facing Limerick, his 73rd minute kick ensuring the visitors’ mission ended unfulfilled.

In several post-mortems conducted during the short trek back across the border, most will have pointed to the opportunity which fell to Darragh Treacy to level matters seven minutes from the end. As the centre-forward pulled back the trigger, opposing centre-back Gordon Kelly emerged from left field to produce a superb block, sub Killian Phair flashing the breaking ball wide of Joe Hayes’ goal.

“We got the result which is the key thing,” said a relieved Gary Brennan, his first-half heroics central in setting Limerick a target they were unable to reach.

“They really put it up to us in the second-half and it took a couple of really big plays at the end to see us home.

Cathal [McInerney] came on and kicked a big free, Davy [O’Halloran] minded the ball well. Guys came in and made a difference.”

The winner’s nervous finish was far removed from the confident and direct football employed in the opening period. Their intent was well documented in the early exchanges, even if the scoreboard did not oblige.

Five wides and a spurned goal opportunity they had racked up by the 10th minute.

The radar was eventually located and three Gary Brennan points, added to Eoin Cleary, Shane Brennan, Cathal O’Connor and Podge Collins minors moved Clare 0-9 to 0-4 clear by the break.

Limerick, as expected, raised a gallop thereafter and while they outscored their hosts by 0-7 to 0-2 between the 37th and 57th minute, parity, ultimately, was never achieved.

Scorers for Clare: G Brennan (0-4); R Donnelly, C McInerney (1 free), E Cleary (0-2 each); C O’Connor (‘45), Sean Collins, J Malone, S Brennan, P Collins (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick:: I Ryan (0-4, 2 frees); B Scanlon (0-3, 2 45’s); P Nash (0-2); C Sheehan, I Corbett, S Cahill, T Lee (0-1 each).

CLARE:

J Hayes; C Russell, K Harnett, M McMahon; S Hickey, G Kelly, D Ryan; G Brennan, C O’Connor; Sean Collins, J Malone, S Brennan; P Collins, P Burke, E Cleary.

Subs:

: Stephen Collins for Hickey (HT, inj), R Donnelly for S Brennan (40 mins, inj), D O’Halloran for Malone (47, bc) C McInerney for Cleary (58), C Dunning for Stephen Collins (65), K Sexton for Burke (69).

LIMERICK:

B Scanlon; R Browne, J McCarthy, S O’Dea; I Corbett, C Fahy, S Cahill; T Lee, G Hegarty; J Riordan, D Treacy, S Buckley; P Nash, P Ranahan, I Ryan.

Subs:

D Neville for Lee (35 mins), C Sheehan for Riordan (half-time), K Moore for Ranahan (56), G Noonan for Browne (62), K Phair for Nash (70, bc).

Referee:

D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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