Having struggled to shake off the visitors during the opening 20 minutes of the second-half, and this despite hurling with the wind at their backs and enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Limerick finally put daylight between themselves and their opponents when substitute Josh Ryan goaled on 52 minutes.
The score originated from a failed Clare attack where Conor Tierney was robbed of possession as he bore down on the Limerick posts. The sliotar was hammered down the other end of the field, Ryan snapped up possession and beat Clare ‘keeper Killian Nugent with a low shot.
The green flag moved the home outfit 1-11 to 1-7 in front and it wasn’t until the clock ticked into the red that Clare were successful in making any inroads on the Limerick goal; sub Aidan Kennedy was hauled to the ground by full-back William O’Meara as he slipped inside the cover.
Sean O’Loughlin opted to point the resulting free, but any hope of an injury-time equaliser was dashed when from the ensuing puck-out, possession was worked to Cian Magnier Flynn and the Limerick sub rattled home goal number two. And although somewhat flattered by the six-point margin at the end, this was a fully merited victory for Pat Donnelly’s young charges.
Mind you, it was a game they could have killed off far earlier were it not for six second-half wides.
For Clare, their failure was rooted in the decision to operate with a two man full-forward line when backed by the elements in the first-half.
Centre-forward David Fitzgerald was redeployed to the half-back line and while the Clonlara youngster hurled a fair amount of ball in that opening period, so too did unmarked Limerick full-back William O’Meara.
The visiting forward unit made no real impact over the hour — Ian Murray was the sole member of the starting front six to write his name onto the scoresheet from open play.
The corner-forward handed Clare the perfect start when pulling to the net one minute in after Limerick ‘keeper Mark O’Kelly coughed up possession coming off his line.
Limerick answered with three on the bounce through Mark O’Dwyer (free), Conor Boylan and Kyle Hayes, and while a Sean O’Loughlin free nudged the Banner back in front, they would fail to add to their tally in the ensuing 17 minutes of action.
O’Dwyer (free), Cal McCarthy and Brian Ryan returned the home outfit in front during this period (0-6 to 1-1), but the sides would return to their dressing rooms deadlocked as Clare hit three of the final four points of the half to tie matters, 1-4 to 0-7.
Points from Darragh Carroll and a fine effort from centre-back Ciaran O’Connor looked to put Limerick on the road to victory early in the second-half; Clare, though, refused to bend the knee and countered with two in quick succession from O’Loughlin (free) and sub Aidan Kennedy.
Another 12 minutes would pass before Clare added to their tally, a period during which two Limerick subs decided the issue.
C Magnier Flynn, J Ryan (1-0 each); M O’Dwyer (0-3, 0-3 frees); C Boylan, K Hayes (0-2 each); D Carroll, B Ryan, C McCarthy, C O’Connor (0-1 each).
S O’Loughlin (0-5, 0-5 frees); I Murray (1-0); A Kennedy (0-2); C Tierney (0-1).
M Kelly (Croom); B Nash (South Liberties), W O’Meara (Askeaton), B Timmons (Murroe/Boher); J Adams (Ballybrown), C O’Connor (Kilmallock), F Hourigan (Murroe/Boher); C Nicholas (Monaleen), C McCarthy (Kilmallock); K Hayes (Kildimo/Pallaskenry), D Carroll (Newport), B Ryan (South Liberties); C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), A Barrett (Kilmallock), M O’Dwyer (Monaleen).
C Magnier Flynn (Kileedy) for Barrett (HT), J Ryan (Doon) for O’Dwyer (45), D Woulfe (Kilmallock) for McCarthy (58), C Flahive (Mungret) for Timmons (58), D Minihan (Ahane) for O’Connor (63).
K Nugent (O’Callaghan’s Mills); C McInerney (Inagh Kilnamona), D O’Loughlin (Corofin), K White (Inagh Kilnamona); P Mulready (Sixmilebridge), C Noonan (Killanena),T O’Meara (Killanena); R Hayes (Crusheen), C Tierney (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); G Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), D Fitzgerald (Crusheen), S Kennedy (Kilmaley); S O’Loughlin (Kilmaley), K Galvin (Clonlara), I Murray (Bodyke).
A Kennedy (Kilmaley) for Murray (40 mins), S Costelloe (Wolfe Tones) for McInerney (41, inj), T Connellan (Eire Og) for Cooney (49), M Danaher (Cratloe) for Galvin (58).
T Walsh (Waterford).