Collins counts his blessings after Banner survive Limerick fightback
Clare 1-13 Limerick 1-12
The well-honed instincts of a lifetime in football told Clare manager Colm Collins midway through the second half that his team were booked for a Munster semi-final against Kerry in two weeks.
At the back of his mind, however, a little jangle of alarm bells began to edge into the consciousness, because the Banner boys kept missing chances to nail down the coffin lid on Limerick.
Seven wides in the first half, five more added on by the 47th minute.
A tad wasteful, but at 1-9 to 0-6, still on course for a third consecutive year of defeating the Treaty County in Munster championship fare.
Still, Collins wanted to be sure. A ninth-minute goal by Eoin Cleary had given Clare early momentum, and they turned in at half-time leading by 1-8 to 0-6.
A quick point on the restart by Cleary stretched the lead to double scores.
It wasn't pretty or spectacular football, but Collins just wanted his players to keep Limerick at bay.
"It's vital when you're on top of any team that you put them away in Championship," he said. "We didn't, and left the gap there, and left the door open for Limerick.
"And Limerick, like any decent team, will come and take opportunities, and they did. We're very fortunate to come out of it, but it's great to be in the next round."
Limerick did close the gap, but very late in the match.
They were helped by a couple of fine saves from their goalkeeper, Donal O'Sullivan, particularly from a close range effort by Keelan Sexton in the 61st minute.
They doggedly battled away and showed admirable defiance.
Between the 53rd and 68th minutes they tacked on five hard-earned points As the game entered added time - referee Cormac Reilly signalled four extra minutes - Limerick threw everything they could at Clare, who still looked comfortable at 1-13 to 0-11.
Manager Billy Lee had emptied the bench, and one of those substitutes, debutant Josh Ryan, a minor last year, struck over a point at 70 minutes, and then added a 72nd-minute goal after corner-back Sean O'Dea had opened up the opportunity.
Cue mayhem all round, but once an equalising chance by another sub, Sean McSweeney, flashed wide, Clare had the nous to finish out the next minute.
Lee, in his first season and with a much-changed squad - 15 of the 33-man panel were untested before yesterday in Championship - was disappointed.
"Clare are more developed physically than we are. On the 50-50 balls their strength stood up," he explained.
"We had the chances, but it's fair to say Clare had some great goal chances.
"The thing is we created chances at the death, we were going at it at the death. We've a lot of lads aged 20-23, so that says a lot about us."
Limerick were boosted by the return of experienced Ger Collins and Seamus O'Carroll, and for Clare, the older men such as Gary Brennan and David Tubridy were to the fore, while Eoin Cleary always posed a threat to the opposition.
Just before the final whistle, Limerick's Danny Neville was sent off for a second yellow card offence.
Scorers - Clare: E Cleary 1-4 (0-2fs); D Tubridy 0-4 (2fs); K Sexton 0-3 (1f); P Lillis, S Collins 0-1 each. Limerick: J Ryan 1-1; S O'Carroll 0-4; G Collins (1f), D Neville 0-2 each; I Corbett, D Tracey, J Naughton 0-1 each.
Clare - J Hayes 7; D Ryan 6, K Harnett 6, M McMahon 6; P Lillis 6. G Kelly 7, J Hayed 6' G Brennan 7, C O'Connor 6; J Malone 6, S Collins 6, S Brennan, 6; E Cleary 8, D Tubridy 7, K Sexton 7. Subs: L Markham 6 for C O'Connor (60); B Creamer 6 for S Collins (65); S Malone for D Tubridy (69);
Limerick - D O'Sullivan 7; D Daly 6, J McCarthy 6, S O'Dea, 6; P White 6, I Corbett 7, B Fanning 6; D Tracey 6, D Ward 6; P Nash 6, J Naughton 6, G Noonan 6; S O'Carroll 7, D Neville 6, G Collins 6. Subs: J Ryan 7 (1-1) for D Ward (47); S McSweeney 6 for P Nash (52); J Lee 6 for J Naughton (57); T McCarthy 6 for D Daly (60); P Scanlon 6 for G Collins (63); P Quinn for S O'Carroll (68)
Ref - C Reilly (Meath)