Sport Hurling

Sunday 22 October 2017

Moran proves his critics wrong to inspire Treaty

CLARE 1-20

JOHN Allen's Limerick finally smashed their Clare hoodoo with a fully-merited four-point victory in last night's gripping All-Ireland SHC phase 3 qualifier at Semple Stadium.

In four previous competitive matches between the sides in 2012, Clare were unbeaten but Limerick got the job done when it mattered most in the heat of championship, holding off a late Banner revival to keep their season alive.

And it was the much-maligned Niall Moran who led the charge for Limerick, scoring five points from play in front of 20,142 spectators, while teen sensation Shane Dowling bagged eight points from frees.

Moran has often been on the receiving end of unjustified criticism from Limerick fans but the experienced Adare star was excellent last night.

Sub Declan Hannon's 40th-minute goal also proved crucial in this Limerick win, which sends the Shannonsiders through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The worry before throw-in from a Limerick perspective was that they would have learned nothing from facile wins against Laois and Antrim in previous rounds, while Clare had previously scored a massive victory over Dublin.

But Limerick looked the fresher side, particularly in the second half, although Allen decided upon a first-half switch when Hannon came on to replace Brian Geary, who struggled at centre-forward.

Allen can also thank goalkeeper Nickie Quaid for a cracking performance between the sticks -- and a 59th-minute save to keep out a 20-metre free from Tony Kelly was most important.

Quaid was finally beaten two minutes from time as Kelly found the net from the 20m line. That goal cut the gap back to three points but Limerick were strong enough to see the game out.

The first half was shapeless, but entertaining nonetheless. Both goalkeepers excelled as Clare netminder Patrick Kelly denied Seanie Tobin from point-blank range in the 15th minute before keeping out Shane Dowling's 20m free six minutes later.

In the goalmouth scramble that followed, a melee broke out and when the dust settled, referee Brian Gavin dished out yellow cards to Clare full-back Cian Dillon and Moran, who shot three points in the opening six minutes for Limerick. In truth, Gavin could have reached for the red card for one or two of the participants as mini-skirmishes broke out at the Town End.

At the other end, Quaid was busy, keeping out Aaron Cunningham in the ninth minute with a fine save before Tony Kelly's fierce 20m free in first-half stoppage-time was diverted over the crossbar. But two goals were scored in that opening half -- both by Limerick. The first was a smashing effort from marauding Limerick wing-back Wayne McNamara in the fourth minute; the second touched home by Sean Tobin two minutes before half-time from Gavin O'Mahony's booming free.

The half had ebbed and flowed, with Limerick ahead by three on as many occasions before the flashpoint broke their momentum. Clare would hit seven points without reply to move 0-13 to 1-6 clear. But while Limerick crumbled under a similar scoring onslaught in the Division 1B final, they responded here, hitting 1-3 before half-time to regain the whip hand.

Scorers -- Limerick: S Dowling 0-8 (8f), N Moran 0-5, S Tobin 1-1, W McNamara, D Hannon 1-0 each, G Mulcahy 0-2, G O'Mahony, K Downes 0-1 each; Clare: C McGrath 0-6 (4f), T Kelly 1-2 (1-1f), N O'Connell 0-4 (3f, 1 '65') C Galvin 0-3, J Conlon 0-2, B Bugler, P Donnellan, A Cunningham 0-1 each.

Limerick: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O'Grady, G O'Mahony; P O'Brien, J Ryan; S Dowling, B Geary, D Breen; G Mulcahy, N Moran, S Tobin. Subs: D Hannon for Geary (29), K Downes for Tobin (59), S O'Neill for Condon (60), S Hickey for J Ryan (62), T Ryan for Mulcahy (70)

Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, C Dillon, S Morey; B Bugler, P Donnellan, N O'Connell; C Galvin, S Collins; F Lynch, J Conlon, T Kelly; A Cunningham, D Honan, C McGrath. Subs: L Markham for Collins (50), C Ryan for Cunningham (64), J Clancy for Honan (64)

Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)

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