Clare reach Munster final

Clare 4-12 Limerick 1-16, Semple Stadium

Clare 4-12 Limerick 1-16, Semple Stadium

Limerick, last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists, crashed out of the Munster championship at the first hurdle this afternoon as four-goal Clare reigned supreme at Semple Stadium.

Limerick boss Richie Bennis was left rueing his side's defensive errors as having forced their way back into the game, the concession of two goals in the space of five second half minutes had the Shannonsiders floored at 4-09 to 1-10.

They put in a gallant final quarter-of-an-hour, pulling the deficit back to five points, but there was no denying Clare their place in the July 13 final against Tipperary.

Despite playing into a forceful wind, Limerick shot ahead but the Banner men put the cat amongst the pigeons when Pat Vaughan's long delivery in towards the square resulted in a 14th-minute goal.

The wing back's effort, which dropped short of goalkeeper Brian Murray and squeezed past him into the net, edged Clare into a 1-02 to 0-04 lead.

Three points from Andrew O'Shaughnessy, who was giving his marker Gerry O'Grady a hard time, and a superb shot from Niall Moran had given Limerick the early advantage.

But that goal really rocked Limerick to the core and with the breeze at their backs, Clare foraged ahead to claim a 2-07 to 0-06 lead by half-time.

Moran and O'Shaughnessy tagged on two points in between a barrage of Clare scores, which included a 29th-minute goal from Jonathan Clancy.

Substitute Declan O'Rourke did the donkey work and scooped the ball free from a small forest of players before Clancy unleashed a low shot which went through Murray's legs and nestled in the Limerick net.

Points from free-taker Mark Flaherty, Clancy and Tony Carmody boosted Clare's tally before the turnaround, but with the elements in their favour in the second half, Limerick were still in contention.

Suddenly the gap was down to four points just four minutes into the second period.

Donal O'Grady and Clancy had traded early points, but Limerick were right back in the hunt when some slack defending allowed Ollie Moran slice through and smack the ball past Clare net minder Philip Brennan.

The wind was literally in their sails as Limerick notched three of the next four points to cut the gap to just two points, with little over 20 minutes remaining.

Ebbing and flowing, the game took another sizeable turn when substitute Barry Nugent netted in the 54th-minute, firing home after a defensive lapse had allowed Carmody seek him out with a cross-field ball.

The ceiling then caved in on Limerick when, barely four minutes later, Clare burst through for their fourth goal.

Mike McNamara's men went eight points clear when Diarmuid McMahon leapt highest to claim a dangling delivery and the wing forward then rasped a powerful shot past Murray.

Points from Niall Moran, who scored five points from play, and Damien Reale gave Limerick a chance of mounting a late comeback but there was no sign of a confidence-building goal and Clare were not to be caught.

Although, the Banner's win was slightly soured in injury-time when defender Brendan Bugler was sent-off for a foul on Niall Moran.

In the dying seconds, there was one further goal-mouth scramble in and around the Clare square but referee Eamonn Morris blew for full-time soon after, allowing Clare's players, management and fans to celebrate their qualification for a first Munster final since 1999.

CLARE: P Brennan; G O'Grady, F Lohan, B Bugler; P Vaughan (1-00), C Plunkett, P Donnellan; B O'Connell, C Lynch (0-01); D McMahon (1-00), T Griffin, J Clancy (1-02); N Gilligan (0-03, 0-02f), T Carmody (0-02), M Flaherty (0-03, 0-03f).

Subs used: D O'Rourke for Griffin (23 mins), B Nugent (1-01) for Flaherty (49), G Quinn for Plunkett (67), F Lynch for McMahon (70+2).

LIMERICK: B Murray; D Reale (0-01), S Lucey, M O'Riordan; S Hickey, P O'Dwyer, M Foley; D O'Grady (0-01), M O'Brien (0-01); M Fitzgerald, O Moran (1-01), N Moran (0-05); A O'Shaughnessy (0-06, 0-05f), S O'Connor, D Sheehan.

Subs used: D Ryan (0-01) for Sheehan (41 mins), B Foley for Fitzgerald (54), P Tobin for O'Connor (59).

Referee: Eamonn Morris (Dublin)

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