With 3,697 people watching on, these were two sides desperate to prolong their summer and everything about the game reflected it — in the fact it went to extra-time, extending the losing side’s championship by at least 20 minutes, and in the fact every score was excruciatingly hard earned.
Even getting a shot off was an achievement. That Clare had 21 shots waved wide was not so much a reflection of their inaccuracy as the tenacity of Limerick’s defending. Any ball played into a forward, he had a man right up on him. Any time he went to strike, he still had a body or hurl in on him.
About the only thing more difficult than to get separation from your man here was to get separation from the opposing team. At half-time, it was seven points each. In the second half they each scored seven points as well. At the end of the first half of extra-time they were still dead even, 16 points apiece. Nothing between them.
In the end, the reason why Clare will advance to the Munster final and the All-Ireland series while Limerick’s summer is over is because upfront, the home side is because they had two men with the capacity to come up with huge plays, as much as Paul O’Brien and David Woulfe excelled for Limerick.
Tiernan Agnew, after playing most of the game in the half-forward line, moved to the edge of the square to claim a ball a man his side had no real right to win and duly turned to whip over his 10th point of the night. Then with two minutes to go, Gary Cooney notched his fourth point from play with a terrific score along the right touchline. Ultimately that was the difference.
The other outstanding feature of the game was Clare’s halfback line. It will be little consolation to Anthony Daly, Limerick’s coach here, that the display of Diarmuid Ryan, Cian Minogue and Aidan McCarthy was reminiscent of when he, Liam Doyle and Seanie McMahon were in their pomp. Minogue and Ryan were exceptional in the air, while McCarthy was majestic, winning virtually every puckout that came his way and then landing a magnificent long-range point on the stroke of half-time in extra-time to bring Clare level again.
On an initially dark, wet night, Limerick started the brighter, scoriing the first four points of the game, all from their dainty centre forward Paul O’Brien. Clare were being repeatedly caught and hooked in possession and when Agnew missed a close-in free you were wondering when or even if the home side would ever score.
But then they did, rattling off the next four points of the game in fact, all courtesy of Agnew as the Sixmilebridge youngster impressively parked his earlier miss. After 20 minutes of O’Brien and Agnew being the only two men to have scored, the game then opened up, with five different scorers banging over points before half-time.
The second half was also nip and tuck. With 10 minutes to go Clare had eked out a three-point lead only for Limerick to rattle off the last three points of normal time. They wanted to keep this summer going. And they did. For 20 more minutes. But then McCarthy, Agnew and Cooney came up with more magic.
Clare: T Agnew 0-10 (7f, 1 65), G Cooney (0-4), D Ryan, A McCarthy, K White, B Horner and G Cahill 0-1 each. Limerick: P O’Brien 0-9 (5f), D Woulfe 0-4, M O’Brien, D Minehan, D O’Shea and R Connolly 0-1 each.
D Heffernan (Mallow); C Flahive (Mungret/St Paul’s), C Nicholas (Monaleen), C Barry (Ahane); M O’Brien (Doon), J Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), K Bonar (Bruff); D Minehan (Ahane), M O’Grady (Knockainey); P O’Riordan (Bruff), P O’Brien (Mungret-St Paul’s), D Woulfe (Kilmallock); D O’Shea (Garyspillane), R Connolly (Adare), Gearoid Barry (Kilmallock).
B O’Grady (Kilteely-Dromkeen) for O’Riordan (halftime), R Tobin (Garryspilane) for Barry (38 mins), R Duff (Mungret-St Paul’s) for O’Grady (49). Extra time: M O’’Grady (70 mins) for O’Brien (70), O’Riordan for Duff (blood sub, 57), D Burke (Dromcollegher-Broadford) for O’Shea (80)
E Fourdy (Inagh-Kilnamona); S Crowley (Kilmihil), R Hayes (Crusheen), B Higgins (Kilmaley); D Ryan (Cratloe), C Minogue (Bodyke), A McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona); K White (Inagh-Kilnamona), L Brack (Clarecastle); T Agnew (Sixmilebridge), R Considine (Cratloe), E Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona); G Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), P Corry (Sixmilebridge), B Horner (Crusheen).
C Tierney (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield) for Corry (halftime), C Haugh (Ruan) for Considine (42 mins), G Cahill (Corofin) for Fitzgerald (48), C McInerney (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Crowley (inj, 53), E Wallace (Clarecastle) for Ryan (inj, 58). Extrat-time: K McDermott (Clarecastle) for White (75).
P Kelly (Tipperary)