Clare 0-16 Limerick 0-13: “Forgettable” is the adjective that does this Munster SFC quarter-final most justice. The sort of game that, were it recorded on a VHS, you would be happy to record over instantly.
Colm Collins may hope to use the dvd of it as a video nasty in the coming days before he hopes Clare can expunge it from their memory banks ahead of facing Kerry in Fitzgerald Stadium. To be associated with as stammering a showing as this runs against the progression the Division 2-bound side have made this year.
John Brudair, on the other hand, cut a reasonably satisfied figure afterwards having seen a team doomed to Division 4 next season leech onto Clare until the very end and subdue their captain Gary Brennan. Were they not so erratic in their shooting early on, an upset may very well have been on the cards but their attack was simply not up to the task. In total, they accrued 16 wides.
It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that their attack contributed their second point from play, coming from Ian Ryan who once more took the challenge to the opposition. Up to that stage, they were largely reliant on Ryan to punish Clare from frees.
And yet they were never more than four points in arrears, one behind up to the 50th minute before Clare sent over two points in succession. Through Jamie Malone, Podge Collins and Eoin Cleary, Clare developed three four-point leads in the final 11 minutes but had grounds for nerves in injury-time when Ryan, via a free, and Danny Neville hit back.
David Tubridy could have settled Clare with a free but sent his shot wide although Clare were sharpest from the resultant kick-out and Malone may have goaled but his punched point was enough to wipe the Banner’s brows. The final whistle was as much relief for Clare as it was for those who had anticipated this clash may bring out the best in each other. After nine wides in as many minutes at the outset, there were ironic cheers when Ryan eventually sent over the first point of the game from a free after Peter Nash had been illegitimately impeded. Paddy Neilan had allowed advantage to the Limerick forward who, in keeping with the match’s damning narrative, had sent his shot wide.
Limerick were guilty for two-thirds of those early mistakes and Brudair accepted they came back to haunt them. “You’d expect a higher return from them. That first 10 minutes, if we had nailed a few scores it would have given the team confidence and breathing space in terms of building further attacks and scores. These things happen. We were in the game in the last five minutes and that’s where we wanted to be and wanted to make sure we won it but we didn’t get the result.”
At the other end, Clare were making do with inferior possession but managed to burrow their way through the thick Limerick cover for two goal chances. Keelan Sexton was off target in the seventh minute and then Malone found the net only for it to be disallowed as he had hand-passed it to the net.
“We split them for a couple of goal chances which we spurned,” rued Collins. “When you get those chances against as good a defensive system as Limerick had, you’ve got to score them. You’re not going to get five or six of them so you have to take the ones you do get. We didn’t punish them and it left us with a jittery end to the game.” Limerick’s detailing of Brennan meant Clare soon realised they had to adopt a plan B and it was the hosts who led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 15 minutes. Points from Sexton and Sean Collins brought Clare back to level terms although Seanie Buckley cut through their defence to point on the half-hour mark.
Clare finished out the half the brighter, a Tubridy free and substitute Collins combining to help them into a slightly undeserved 0-5 to 0-4 interval advantage. They sent over another brace at the start of the second-half but their indiscipline was costly yet Gordon Kelly’s black card foul on Ryan in the 49th minute seemed a most professional one given Ryan was poised for a goal chance.
Buckley had sight of goal too five minutes later when Joe Hayes snuffed out the danger but the game was swinging Clare’s way. After Brennan and Stephen Cahill exchanged points, Tubridy and Malone found their range. Ryan did his best to keep Limerick in it but the scores were coming easier to the opposition. Lest it be said, Clare won’t be afforded such luxuries the next time they lace up for competitive fare.
Scorers for Limerick:
I. Ryan (0-8, 7 frees); D. Neville (0-2, 1 free); C. Sheehan, S. Buckley, S. Cahill (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare:
D. Tubridy (2 frees), J. Malone (0-3 each); K. Sexton, P. Collins, E. Cleary (0-2 each); C. O’Connor, S. Collins, S. McGrath, G. Brennan (0-1 each).
D. O’Sullivan; S. Cahill, P. Browne, J. McCarthy; B. Fanning, S. O’Dea, P. White; S. Buckley, D. Treacy; G. Noonan, I. Ryan (c), C. Sheehan; P. Nash, D. Neville, S. McSweeney.
Subs for Limerick:
E. Hogan for S. McSweeney (29); K. Ryan for G. Noonan (57); P. Hannon for B. Fanning (59); H. Bourke for E. Hogan (64); C. Fahy for P. White (70+2).
J Hayes; M. McMahon, K. Harnett, D. Ryan; S. Collins, G. Kelly, S. O’Dea; G. Brennan (c), C. O’Connor; P. Lillis, J. Malone, E. Cleary; K. Sexton, D. Tubridy, P. Burke.
Subs for Clare:
P. Collins for C. O’Connor (inj 34); S. Malone for G. Kelly (black, 51); S. Hickey for C. O’Dea, E. Coughlan for P. Burke (both 57).
P Neilan (Roscommon)
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