Clare sweep Limerick aside to make early championship statement
Limerick 0-14 Clare 1-23
It’s a long time since Limerick beat Waterford back in 2012 to claim their last provincial championship win, and an even dimmer memory since they last accounted for Clare three years before that, but the wait goes on for Billy Lee’s side after this 12-point defeat at the Gaelic Grounds.
Kieran Malone and Eoin Cleary caused huge problems for the home side at the Gaelic Grounds as Clare eased their way into the last four, where they now face Munster five-in-a-row winners Kerry in a fortnight’s time.
Considering 19 positions separated these teams after their national league campaigns, Clare were entitled to expect victory, but after a shaky period either side of half-time, the ease of this victory bodes well for the rest of their championship campaign.
With three Munster titles between them neither team has history in their favour, but Clare had the cut of a team intent on improving themselves early on.
After five minutes they led three point to nil, with Eoin Cleary and Jamie Malone to the fore from the off, while a couple of early marks from Cathal O’Connor underlined Clare’s dominance in the midfield sector.
By the 16th minute that Clare lead was 0-6 to 0-1, with one of those points coming from Jamie Malone via the fingertips of Limerick goalkeeper and captain Donal O’Sullivan. The Limerick ’keeper was doing his best to keep his side in the game, but after he denied Kieran Malone after 18 minutes, he was helpless as the wing-forward finished off the rebound.
The goal put Clare eight points clear, but after all their early dominance they were guilty of a slack ten minutes. Much of Limerick’s success in that period emanated from the positing of Jamie Lee around midfield where he launched a few good attacks, while debutant Patrick Begley at full-forward proved a dangerous target man.
Lee and Danny Neville pointed to get Limerick back in the game, but after the duo added another point each, a point-blank save from Eamonn Tubridy kept a Lee shot at bay, which would have put just a point between the sides. Instead Kieran Malone and Tubridy kicked the last two points of the half to give Clare a 1-9 to 0-7 interval lead, a true reflection of how the half had developed.
Limerick continued to impress after the restart and a couple of pointed frees from Lee and McSweeney meant a goal just separated the sides after 40 minutes. A black card for Peter Nash was a blow for Limerick, although four early wides from Clare after the break meant they couldn’t find their feet.
But after 13 scoreless minutes to start the half, Eimhin Courtney gave Clare something to cheer with a good score on the turn. That score seemed to allow Clare to reset as Kieran Malone, O’Connor and Cleary combined to see them to a convincing win.
This was far from perfect from Clare, but after a strong Division 2 season, a big win is a great way to launch their claim for a first Munster title since 1992.
Scorers – Clare: K Malone (1-3), E Cleary (0-5), D Tubridy (0-3, 1f), E Courtney (0-2), C Finucane 0-2, C Ó nAinifein, P Lillis, C O’Connor, K Sexton, G O’Brien, G Cooney, M O’Leary, J Malone (0-1 each). Limerick: S McSweeney (0-5, 5f), J Lee (0-3, 1f), D Neville (0-2), J Ryan (0-3, 2f), P White (0-1).
Clare: E Tubridy; G Kelly, C Brennan, E Collins; C O’Dea, A Fitzgerald, P Lillis; G Brennan, C O’Connor; K Malone, E Cleary, J Malone; E Courtney, K Sexton, D Tubridy.
Subs: C Ó nAinifein for Kelly (42), G O’Brien for Sexton (58), E O’Connor for Collins (69), G Cooney for D Tubridy (64), C Finucane for K Malone (66), M O’Leary for E Courtney (67).
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; D Connolly, S O’Dea, P Maher; P White, C Fahy, G Browne; D Treacy, M Fitzgibbon; D Neville, S McSweeney, G Noonan; J Lee, P Begley, P Nash.
Subs: I Corbett for Nash (44 BC), J Ryan for Begley (49), K Ryan for Lee (54), D Lyons for Fitzgibbon (61), D Daly for Browne (61), P Scanlon for Neville (64).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).