By Jack Flynn
Limerick 2-10, Clare 0-13
Limerick, a week removed from a tough loss to Kilkenny in the Brendan Keane Knockout final, returned to form Sunday with a hard-fought 2-10 to 0-13 victory over Clare at Gaelic Park.
Due to miscommunication, many Limerick players were late, delaying the start of the match, yet despite the tardiness and having to play without three established hurlers, Limerick still came up with the win.
“We pulled together as a team better than we’ve done before,” said veteran hurler Eamon Shields of Limerick, “and things worked out in our favor.”
Shields was a sparkplug for his side in the first half. Limerick scored four of the game’s first five points and shields scored two of them, including a long ball over the bar off a free. He would finish the match with three points.
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Limerick almost scored the first goal of the match when a long free by Dave Simms led to a scramble in front of Clare’s goal. Goalkeeper Barney Breen finally whacked the ball out of harm’s way.
Minutes later, Clare had a fine chance of their own. Eamon Coleman, who played a strong match guarding the goal for Limerick, flicked away a well-placed cross to keep his team in the lead.
Coleman later stole a sure point from Clare’s Joe Egan by leaping up to knock down a ball destined to go over the crossbar. However, Coleman was not the only Limerick player holding Clare at bay. Finbar Flood, between the pipes for Limerick in last Sunday’s loss to Kilkenny, had an outstanding match at left full back, making several strong defensive plays.
Although Limerick jumped out to the early lead, Clare maintained the better of play for a good part of the first half. Backed by three points from Donal Moore and strong play from John Kennedy and Brian McNamara, Clare narrowed the score to 0-7 to 0-5 after 30 minutes.
Unfortunately for Clare, Limerick began the second half on fire. A bad misplay by Breen led to Limerick’s first goal and Brendan Cagney had a wonderful goal from the left corner just two minutes later. Suddenly, an 0-7 to 0-5 nail-biter became a 2-7 to 0-5 blowout.
For its part, Clare did not roll over and die after the crippling Limerick goals. They scored six of the next seven points, including two by McNamara and one from John Hennessy, to make the score 2-8 to 0-11 in favor of Limerick.
The Clare run was broken only by a sterling point from Simms just minutes before a Shields free was deflected on goal but eaten up by Breen. Otherwise, Limerick would have had a back-breaking third goal.
Cagney took a ball to the body later in the half and was forced to leave the match. Clare would get no closer, however, as points from Moore and Brian Adams were matched by points from Simms and Tim Kelly. A scramble in the match’s waning moments could not produce the goal Clare so desperately needed and Limerick walked off the field with the win.
Limerick scorers: Connolly 1-1, Cagney 1-0, Simms and Shields 0-3, Canty, Reynolds and Kelly 0-1 each.
Clare: Moore 0-4, McNamara 0-3, Adams and Kennedy 0-2, Breen and Hennessy 0-1 each.