A sudden-death free-taking competition was required to separate Limerick and Clare in this historic and enthralling league quarter-final, Limerick’s Colin Ryan the hero at the end of a contest that almost ran for three hours, writes
With no winner after 100 minutes of hurling (not including injury-time minutes), both teams nominated five players to take a free. All 10 players nailed the target and so to sudden-death we went, the same 10 players required to take another round of frees until we had white smoke.
Limerick have beaten Clare in the Allianz hurling League, dramatic finish Limerick winning by frees! pic.twitter.com/ixIdZW1cTN— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 19, 2018
Peter Duggan and Aaron Gillane converted their second frees. Clare’s Niall Deasy was unable to find the target the second time around, his strike from the ‘65 drifting right and wide. Colin Ryan was up next for Limerick and he did the necessary to bring the curtain down on a game that went on for two hours and 55-minutes.
Two five-minute periods of extra-time were required when Diarmuid Byrnes sent a 20-metre free to the net in the 92nd minute. Having clocked 10 wides across the two 10-minute periods, Limerick were heading for the exit door as they trailed by three with time up. A Colin Ryan goal effort had been kept out in the previous play before Byrnes added another chapter to this thrilling contest.
Peter Duggan had his name attached to three of Clare’s five extra-time points. Tony Kelly and John Conlon supplied the remainder. The latter could have sent Clare four clear in the second five-minute period but opted to shoot for goal, a drive kept out by Nicky Quaid.
It was 3-16 to 0-25 at the end of normal time, 4-20 to 0-32 after the first two periods of extra-time and 4-21 to 0-33 after the two five-minute periods.
Two second-half goals during the regulation 70 minutes almost had Limerick into a semi-final. Both were equally crucial, Aaron Gillane’s green flag on 55 minutes - his second of this league quarter-final - moving the hosts in front for the first time in proceedings, 2-13 to 0-18.
There were level three times thereafter. Then arrived Pat Ryan’s goal after a slip by Pat O’Connor gave him a free run at goal. 3-15 to 0-21 in front seven minutes from time, they were very much on course for a sixth consecutive win of the spring.
Peter Duggan wasn’t finished, mind, the Clooney Quin marksman striking four on the bounce to sneak the Banner in front one minute into stoppages.
Colin Ryan, who clipped two points in quick succession immediately after his introduction, cut over a sideline to square matters once more. Duggan, following a Richie English foul on Podge Collins, had the chance to win it. His free dropped into the right paw of Nicky Quaid. To extra-time we went.
Clare enjoyed the backing of a fairly strong breeze in the opening period and wouldn’t have been best pleased with their three-point interval advantage, particularly when you consider they led by 0-11 to 0-2 23 minutes in.
Although the visitors to Limerick moved 0-5 to 0-2 ahead inside eight minutes, the hosts could just have easily held the initiative. Having amassed 11 wides in the first-half of their promotion-clinching win above in Pearse Stadium the weekend before last, John Kiely’s charges had five wides tallied by the ninth minute.
Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey and Seamus Flanagan were guilty of missing the target from relatively scorable positions. Further frustrating the home side was their decision to play centre-forward Kyle Hayes as a third midfielder. The left David McInerney free on the ‘45 and he gobbled up a number of poor clearances coming out of the Limerick defence.
One of these from Gearóid Hegarty finished with David Reidy splitting the posts at the other end, the second white flag in a run of seven unanswered points from Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor’s troops.
Peter Duggan accounted for four minors during this spell of dominance (three frees and ‘65), with a fine David Fitzgerald point on the run putting nine between the sides, 0-11 to 0-2.
Limerick desperately needed to stop the bleeding and on 23 minutes, they did just that, Aaron Gillane kicking to the net for their first score in 16 minutes. There followed their first free of the contest, after 24 minutes, which Gillane converted. The corner-forward threw over placed-ball effort before Paul Brown had their first from play in 20 minutes.
Come the break, they trailed 0-14 to 1-8.
From Gillane’s goal to the interval, the Treaty outscored their opponents by 1-6 to 0-3.
As it turn out, we were only getting started.
Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane (2-11, 0-11 frees); D Byrnes (1-1, 1-1 free), P Ryan (1-0 each); C Ryan (0-3, 0-1 sc); G Hegarty (0-2); P Browne, C Lynch, T Morrissey, S Flanagan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: P Duggan (0-19, 0-15 frees, 0-2 ‘65s); T Kelly (0-6); D Reidy, J Conlon (0-2 each); C Galvin, C McGrath, D Fitzgerald, J Conlon (0-1 each).
Limerick: N Quaid; S Finn, R English, S Hickey; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; P Browne, C Lynch; G Hegarty, K Hayes, T Morrissey; A Gillane, S Flanagan, B Murphy.
Subs: C Ryan for Browne (51); P Ryan for Murphy (54); D Reidy for Hayes (63); R McCarthy for Hickey (79); B O’Connell for Hegarty (85); O O’Reilly for Flanagan (87)
Clare: D Tuohy; P O’Connor, C Cleary, J Browne; S Morey, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald; T Kelly, C Galvin; D Reidy, J Conlon, C Malone; P Duggan, S O’Donnell, C McGrath.
Subs: Ian Galvin for C Galvin (52); C McInerney for McGrath (58); J Shanahan for Morey (62); J McCarthy for Reidy (64); P Collins for Mallone (68); M O’Neill for McInerney (70); R Taylor for I Galvin (90); M O’Malley for Kelly (95); N Deasy for Collins (98)
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).