Banner blitz signals end for Ryan
Clare 0-19 Limerick 0-15
Clare got their Liam MacCarthy bid back on track but they were far from convincing with Davy Fitzgerald acknowledging that a similar display will not suffice in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
With Podge Collins, Shane O'Donnell and Tony Kelly leading the charge in attack and Cian Dillon controlling the defence as sweeper, the Banner recovered from a slow start, when they trailed 0-5 to 0-2 after 18 minutes, to assume total control.
Limerick failed to score for the remainder of the half as Collins fired over three points while O'Donnell was rewarded for his typical forages in attack with two fine points to surge into a six-point lead at the break, 0-11 to 0-5.
With last year's U-21 All-Ireland-winning skipper Diarmaid Byrnes leading a one-man revival in the second-half, hitting three super scores from wing back, the Treaty made inroads into Clare's advantage.
TJ Ryan's side cut it back to three on two occasions but they couldn't get any closer. After taking their foot off the pedal Clare sensed danger and responded in kind with Kelly tapping over a penalty after Nickie Quaid was deemed to have fouled Aron Shanagher inside the small square.
James Ryan put three between them at the death but Kelly had the final say and Clare were far from impressive in front of 15,540 spectators at Semple Stadium. After the disappointment of their Munster semi-final loss to Waterford, Fitzgerald was defiant that they're going in the right direction.
"I think you saw that we are getting the numbers back up. Against Waterford we hadn't them, that's a fact. People can fool themselves all they want, I've seen Limerick and Galway win U-21s - they haven't won anything afterwards," Fitzgerald said.
"We won an All-Ireland senior on the way to two All-Ireland U-21s. No matter what happens, to have gone 16 or 17 games and have only one defeat in the year is fantastic."
While delighted to secure just their third championship victory since All-Ireland success in 2013, Fitzgerald stressed improvement is needed while pouring cold water on the scathing criticism made by former Banner boss Ger Loughnane regarding Galway's Leinster final collapse.
"We don't talk about winning the All-Ireland and I'm going to be straight, we'll look at the quarter-final the next day and we know if we are playing Galway they will probably be baying for blood with what Ger Loughnane said," Fitzgerald added.
"Just let this be very straight - we don't agree with that. Galway have been in two All-Ireland finals in four years; won a Leinster and showed the calibre of the team they have. If it's them we know we're in for a battle and we respect them.
"Same for their manager, their manager has won an All-Ireland club (title) and I have massive respect for him too. Micheál Donoghue is a great guy, so if it's them it's a battle, if it's Tipp it's a battle.
"It doesn't matter who it is, we know we are going in for it. But it's great to be there hurling away and I'm very proud of them guys. We are getting back to where we need to be but we know we still have work to do."
Many questions have been asked of the league champions in recent weeks and Fitzgerald has called for patience with the Banner's clutch of young starlets.
"We have to stay (with them) and give the boys a chance, to just keep with them, we are not as traditional as the rest of them but by God we'll fight as hard as we possibly can from here on in, that's all we can do," said Fitzgerald
"We know we have to up our performance but we'll get there, I'm certainly extremely proud of them."
Limerick maintained their poor form of recent seasons and apart from an early flurry, they were over-reliant on Shane Dowling's frees, and only got back into their stride when the game looked beyond their reach.
Barring a goal chance which Brendan Bugler cleared off the line from Dowling, after a delightful Graeme Mulcahy pass split the Banner defence, they struggled for traction in attack with Declan Hannon withdrawn at half time.
For TJ Ryan it looks like the end of the road after a disappointing tenure with a narrow All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny in 2014 their only bright spot after struggling since winning a Munster title three years ago.
"I've given three years of my life to this job, have given every waking hour. Anyone who has been involved in inter-county management, (knows) it is every minute of every day," he said.
"It takes huge time and massive effort, trying to do everything to the best of your ability for the county. I have given everything as a player and manager to Limerick hurling. It wasn't to be, it wasn't good enough."
After receiving his fair share of criticism Ryan also feels GAA punditry has gone too far and called for action. "You have to take the flak. It is part of sport but what people are saying, the analysts and the pundits, some of it is OTT (over the top) and I think that Croke Park should look at that.
"If you look at some of what the analysts are saying - these are amateur players, they give up their lives to play hurling and football and they don't deserve some of the things that are said about them."
SCORERS - Clare: T Kelly 0-9 (5f, 0-1 '65, 0-1 pen), P Collins and S O'Donnell 0-3 each, A Shanagher, D McInerney, J Conlon and J Browne 0-1 each. Limerick: S Dowling 0-6 (5f, 0-1 '65), D Byrnes 0-3, J Ryan 0-2, P Browne, K Downes, G Hegarty and D O'Donovan 0-1 each.
CLARE: A Fahy 7, P O'Connor 6, C Dillon 8, J Browne 7; O O'Brien 8, D McInerney, B Bugler 7, D Reidy 6, C Galvin 7, C Cleary 7, P Collins 8, J Conlon 6; S O'Donnell 8, T Kelly 7, A Shanagher 7. Subs: A Cunningham 6 for J Conlon (47), D Fitzgerald 6 for B Bugler (65).
LIMERICK: N Quaid 7, T Condon 6, R McCarthy 7, R English 6; D Byrnes 8, G O'Mahony 6, P Browne 7, D O'Donovan 5, D Hannon 5, J Ryan 7, C Lynch 6; K Downes 6, S Dowling 6, G Mulcahy 6. Subs: G Hegarty 7 for D Hannon and T Morrissey 6 for D O'Donovan (both half time), S Hickey 6 for P O'Brien (42), B Nash 6 for G Mulcahy (56), A Dempsey 6 for R English (60).
REF - J Owens (Wexford).