Munster SHC Final: Limerick retain title
Munster Senior Hurling Final
Limerick 1-28 Clare 0-27
By Eoin Brennan at FBD Semple Stadium
A Munster Final for the ages as it took a full 90 minutes before Limerick finally emerged from an intense wrestle for supremacy with neighbours Clare to secure a first four-in-a-row of Munster titles in 86 years.
In what was an epic, but exceedingly tense provincial showpiece that was level on 14 occasions, remarkably there was never more than a puck of the ball between the sides at any stage until the final minutes.
In the end, the defending champions just had the edge on stamina as their bench appeared much more physically adept to be able to seamlessly blend into such a demanding slugfest.
The performances of chief marksmen from play Seamus Flanagan (0-8) and Tony Kelly (0-7) were exceptional while Aaron Gillane, Sean Finn, Barry Nash, David Fitzgerald and Ryan Taylor were others to stand tallest in a warrior-like cauldron.
Indeed, Tony Kelly’s seven point first half haul ensured that Clare set the early pace for the majority, only to be spectacularly reeled in when Tom Morrissey offloaded to Gearoid Hegarty to skilfully beat his marker and fire to the bottom right corner of the net at 1-9 to 0-12 by the 27th minute.
That stalemate remained until the break at 0-14 to 1-11 and the sides would sustain that compelling blow-for-blow pattern for the bulk of the second period before Limerick centre-back Declan Hannon stepped up to arrow over a booming point from his own ’65 deep into injury-time.
It looked to be the clinching score but fellow captain Tony Kelly had other ideas and admirably stepped up to take a lineball in the left corner which he duly converted with the last puck to force extra-time at 0-24 to 1-21.
It would be the last time that the sides were deadlocked however as Limerick’s fresh legs from the bench saw them find an extra gear alongside Gillane and Flanagan.
A flagging Clare still refused to yield, but saw their attacking triumvirate of Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan all retire before the finish.
Instead Limerick substitutes Conor Boylan and David Reidy powered the holders four in front by the 86th minutes, with a late Mark Rodgers goal chance just deflected over the bar to ensure that the holders preserved their kingpin status in Munster.
Scorers for Limerick: Aaron Gillane (0-10, 7f); Seamus Flanagan (0-8); Gearoid Hegarty (1-0); Tom Morrissey (0-3); Cathal O’Neill (0-2); Diarmaid Byrnes (f), Darragh O’Donovan, Declan Hannon, Conor Boylan, David Reidy, Will O’Donoghue (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly (0-13, 5f, 1/sl); David Fitzgerald (0-5); Peter Duggan (0-4, 3f, 1/s/l); Ryan Taylor, (0-3); Mark Rodgers (0-2, 1f); Ian Galvin, Shane Meehan (0-1 each).
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Barry Nash, Sean Finn, Mike Casey; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; William O’Donoghue, Darragh O’Donovan; Gearoid Hegarty, Cathal O’Neill, Tom Morrissey; Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan
Subs: Richie English for Casey (56, inj), David Reidy for O’Neill (57), Graeme Mulcahy for O’Donovan (63), Conor Boylan for T. Morrissey (64), Oisin O’Reilly for Hegarty (87).
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Rory Hayes, Conor Cleary, Paul Flanagan; Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, David McInerney; Cathal Malone, Ryan Taylor; David Fitzgerald, Peter Duggan, Shane O’Donnell; Ian Galvin, Tony Kelly, David Reidy
Subs: Shane Meehan for Galvin (55), Robin Mounsey for Reidy (63), Cian Nolan for Flanagan (69, inj), Mark Rodgers for Ryan (70), Reidy for O’Donnell (83), Patrick Crotty for Duggan (86), Shane Golden for Kelly (87, inj).
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow).