O'Neill settles issue as Clare hold off plucky UL's fightback
UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK 1-13
The Clare hurlers got their season off to a winning start at Sixmilebridge, having six points to spare in the end over University of Limerick in a competitive game played in difficult conditions.
The students, who played with a strong wind advantage in the opening half, led by two – 0-8 to 0-6 – at the break.
However, from the restart they had to contend with a focused Clare outfit as well as playing into the elements.
As it turned out, they couldn't manage a second-half score until the 56th minute whereas the home side hit a goal and five points in the same period.
The O'Connell brothers, Nicky and Cathal, with a point apiece, had the sides level by the 42nd minute as Clare began to exert their authority.
Davy Fitzgerald's men forged ahead with a pair of points by wing-forward Fergal Lynch, while Nicky O'Connell got on the score-sheet again by adding a goal and a point.
The goal came about in the 46th minute when Tony Kelly hand-passed to the unmarked mid-fielder and the Clonlara clubman hammered home past Niall McGrath in the UL goal.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Clare led by 1-11 to 0-8 but some defensive errors allowed UL corner-forward Kieran Morris in for the easiest of goals.
Morris added a point and substitute Geoff Brennan grabbed another leaving Clare just a point in front.
However, in the final 10 minutes, the students' comeback was halted as the Banner rattled the net on two occasions before the whistle.
Seadna Morey, who had replaced Lynch, got the first after a good block-down by Enda Barrett and then on 70 minutes, young full-forward Alan O'Neill, making his debut for his county, plucked a Nicky O'Connell delivery out of the sky, turned and rifled home.
It fell to O'Connell to finish out Clare's account for the day with a point. Then Morris, for the students, added a pointed free in injury-time. Clare will now face Cork next weekend in the semi-final.
Scorers – Clare: N O'Connell 1-3 (1 '65', 1f), S Morey 1-0, A O'Neill 1-0, C O'Connell 0-3f, F Lynch, D O'Halloran 0-2 each, C Ryan, E Barrett, T Kelly 0-1 each. UL: K Morris 1-6 (6f), A Ryan 0-2, D Butler, C Malone, S Golden, P Walsh, G Brennan 0-1 each.
Clare – P Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona); D McInerney, J McInerney, C Cooney; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P Kelly (Clarecastle); N O'Connell, C Ryan; F Lynch, T Kelly, E Barrett; D O'Halloran, A O'Neill, C O'Connell. Subs: S O'Donnell for C O'Connell (46), P O'Connor for P Kelly (Clarecastle) (58), S Morey for Lynch (58), J Clancy for O'Halloran (60).
UL – N McGrath; P Flanagan, D Morrissey, P Ryan; T Ryan, C Ryan, P Stapleton; M Fennelly, S Golden; P Walsh, A Ryan, C Malone; K Morris, D Butler, E Murphy. Subs: B Stapleton for Butler (44), P Kelly for Malone (46), G Brennan for Fennelly (46), E Murray for Murphy (46), M Boran for Walsh (61).
Ref –J Sexton (Cork)