Downes puts Clare to sword as Limerick advance to final
Clare's dream of contesting a fourth successive provincial final at this level was comprehensively killed off last night as Limerick marched to a decider date with Cork next week.
The Banner men failed to match the all-round hunger of their opponents in front of an attendance of 6,083 at rain-soaked Cusack Park last night.
The win provided some consolation for Limerick hurling following the county's defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland senior quarter-final in Thurles on Sunday.
Physically stronger in most departments, the Shannonsiders led from the start and deserved their win.
They ruled matters in the vital middle third of the field, dominating the half-back and half-forward sectors throughout.
Limerick got off to a dream start with a goal from corner-forward Michael Ryan in the second minute.
They had the better of matters in the opening 10 minutes -- with Clare under pressure in several areas -- and this was reflected in a scoreline of 1-4 to 0-1 in the visitors' favour after 10 minutes.
However, Clare roused themselves and four points without reply brought them right back into contention, just two points adrift.
Limerick, though, finished the half much the stronger and five unanswered points in as many minutes left them seven clear at the interval.
Clare needed a good start to the second half and this they got when they had the opening three scores, one of them being an excellent goal from Cathal McInerney.
This reduced the deficit to two points, but that was as close as they got.
They were still in the hunt with 11 minutes to go, but a defensive blunder ended their hopes.
Patrick O'Connor lost possession as he tried to break out of defence, and Limerick skipper -- and senior star -- Kevin Downes raced through to score his side's second goal and seal victory.
Scorers -- Limerick: K Downes 1-4, M Ryan 1-2, S Dowling 0-4, C Allis 0-3, S O'Brien 0-2, D Hannon, M Carmody, N Kennedy, W Griffin 0-1 each. Clare: C McGrath 0-5, C McInerney 1-1, T Kelly, D O'Halloran 0-3 each, L Markham 0-2 P Collins 0-1.
Limerick -- A Murphy; A Dempsey, P Begley, S O'Reilly; C McNamara, C Hayes, T O'Callaghan; C Allis, S O'Brien; S Dowling, D Hannon, N Kennedy, M Ryan, K Downes, W Griffin. Subs: B Cleary for O'Callaghan, M Carmody for Griffin, B O'Connell for McNamara, S Madden for M Ryan, T Flemming for Downes.
Clare -- K Brennan; D Nash, P O'Connor, P Flanagan; K Ryan, C Chaplin, S O'Halloran; C Ryan, L Markham; C McInerney, S Golden, T Kelly; P Collins, C McGrath, F Kennedy. Subs: D O'Halloran for Kennedy, A Lynch for C Ryan, J Fennessy for Golden.
Ref -- C Lyons (Cork)