Five Things We Found Out
O’Donnell is back
His admirers may argue that the hero of the 2013 All-Ireland final never went away.
Certainly not too far, at any rate, and let’s be fair: his 3-3 of that golden Saturday evening four years ago was not a trick he was going to repeat every day he took the field.
Yet if O’Donnell couldn’t be Shane 3-3 yesterday, Shane 2-2 came as near as makes no difference.
His goals were neatly and calmly taken, although he had to do rather more for the second goal than the first – and he did it beautifully, showing a pair of Flatley-esque heels to leave the Limerick defence trailing before slipping the sliotar past Nickie Quaid.
What’s more, his second point helped Clare regain the initiative approaching half-time following Limerick’s flurry midway through the half. This time they maintained it.
It’s not always a game of two halves
Here was a new phenomenon: a first half in three acts. The opening act, which featured O’Donnell’s brace of goals, belonged to Clare and lasted for 19 minutes – the first quarter of the game, in other words. At the end of it they led by 2-5 to 0-3 and looked as though they were about to saunter to victory.
What happened next almost defied belief. Limerick hit 1-5 without reply in the space of the next five minutes. Cian Lynch was the prime mover, landing two points and carving open the Clare defence for the goal.
His shot after the run was poor but Andrew Fahy did not distinguish himself in saving and David Dempsey snapped up the crumbs to find the net. Shane Dowling and Paul Browne added points and the teams were level.
Whereupon the storm blew itself out. Limerick failed to score in the remaining ten minutes of the half. Clare hit five points. As you were, gentlemen.
Not enough points
It was never going to be a scoring extravaganza along the lines of Cork/Tipp, with its delightfully insane 53 white flags.
That said, teams with serious championship designs ought to be capable of reaching and breaching the 20-point mark every time they take the field.
Even allowing for their 11 first-half wides Limerick didn’t remotely give the impression they were capable of doing so, while Clare’s freetaker David Reidy forced the umpires to wave their arms on no fewer than six occasions.
The pair of them can do better. More to the point, the pair of them must do better.
Limerick supporters’ fears were realised
Confidence was low on Shannonside beforehand and proceedings demonstrated why. Given that this is John Kiely’s first season in charge and that yesterday’s XV featured five championship debutants it would be trite in the extreme to hold that Limerick should have had more to offer.
To hold that they were poor in the extreme, however, is nothing more than the simple truth. Defensively they were indecisive; up front they were predictably limited, though Kyle Hayes, who showed a commendable appetite for possession, can consider himself exempted from criticism.
That unanswered burst of 1-5 during the first half came out of nowhere and can only be viewed as a bizarre scoring outlier on the balance of the 70 minutes. Over the course of the other 65 minutes and injury-time Kiely’s men managed an aggregate of 1-11.
One occasionally hears a racehorse described as having “run in patches”; Limerick hurled in patches here. One was purple and brief. The rest were long and forgettable.
No nightmares for Cork and Waterford
Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor have negotiated the first step successfully and are to be commended. The summer has opened up for Clare. They’re in a first Munster final since 2008 and are guaranteed a place in the All-Ireland series. So far so good.
On the other side of the ledger none of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Aron Shanagher — 50% of the attack — made the scoreboard and while Clare were comfortably the better team in a poor game it won’t have escaped Kieran Kingston and Derek McGrath that they had only four points to spare in the end.
O’Donnell and Conor McGrath aside, and Colm Galvin too the longer the match wore on, Clare’s prospective opponents in the Munster final won’t have seen a lot to terrify them.
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