Davy's young troops get their season off to the perfect start
Clare 0-18 Limerick 0-17
The fruits of last year’s All-Ireland winning U-21 team are beginning to permeate the Limerick senior set-up already, but it looks as if they still have a bit of catching up to do to their Clare counterparts.
TJ Ryan started six of last year’s U-21 side in the Munster senior league final, introduced another two during the game, and kept one of his best, Diarmuid Byrnes, on ice until the national league.
But the three All-Ireland titles earned by Clare have already delivered seasoned players to Davy Fitzgerald’s squad. Fifteen of his 26-man squad played in either the 2012, 2013 or 2014 victories and it showed on Saturday.
The winning points arrived from three-time winner Cathal O’Connell, who was sprung from the bench with five minutes to go; another with three medals in his pocket, Peter Duggan, was excellent in the half-forward line; while their equally adorned captain, Tony Kelly, played only a token role in the closing stages.
In a young man’s game Clare have all the raw materials required, but Fitzgerald still thinks his side have plenty of room to improve on ahead of their league opener against Offaly in three weeks’ time.
“A win is a win, we ground it out and it was great to get a win. There’s nothing between the teams there tonight. You can tell I am not over-excited by anything. I am just happy to get the win,” said Fitzgerald.
“We need another game or two for definite, we have no real hurling done so we need a game or two. We have a big battle against Offaly, a big battle.”
That opening league game will have to be tackled without 2013 All-Ireland winning captain Pat Donnellan though, after it was confirmed that the centre-back had suffered a cruciate ligament injury last week. Fitzgerald admitted it was a huge blow to his plans.
“Absolutely, we’re so sorry for him because he is a massive leader to us, he will be a massive loss,” he said.
“Plus, he was in great shape, he was in brilliant shape. He had done an awful lot of work, so disappointed for that,” he said.
After a sloppy start saw them trail by three points after 12 minutes, Clare outscored their opponents by 0-10 to 0-5 on the run in to half-time to take control of this encounter.
TJ Ryan will have been annoyed to have lost the game, especially considering Kevin O’Brien could have won it five minutes from time, but his goal-bound shot was well saved by Andrew Fahy.
He would have been hugely encouraged by the form of his youngsters though. Cian Lynch lit up the game with some stunning plays — his over-the-head pass for Darragh O’Donovan’s early point was the moment of the game — while fellow U-21 Barry Nash hit four from play and looks a massive talent.
They’ll all be eased into the team says Ryan.
“These boys are heading in the right direction for sure. A couple played well. These boys are very good, they have given the whole thing a lift. I’m sure these guys will keep heading in the right direction and you will see plenty more of them,” said Ryan.
Scorers – Clare: C Ryan 0-5 (3f), P Duggan, B Duggan 0-3, J Conlon, C O’Connell 0-2, C Dillon, D Fitzgerald, C Cleary 0-1. Limerick: D Hannon 0-7 (3f), B Nash 0-4, P Browne, C Lynch 0-2, D O’Donovan, P Ryan 0-1.
Clare – A Fahy; J Browne, P O’Connor, P Flanagan; C Dillon, D McInerney, C Cleary; G O’Connell, D Reidy; P Duggan, C Ryan, D Fitzgerald; J Conlon, D Honan, B Duggan. Subs: T Kelly for Fitzgerald (43), B Bugler for Dillon (47), S Golden for G O’Connell (63), C O’Connell for Honan (65), C McGrath for Ryan (68).
Limerick – N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, R English; P O’Brien, B O’Connell, S Hickey; P Browne, J Ryan; D O’Donovan, G O’Mahony, C Lynch; G Mulcahy, D Hannon, B Nash. Subs: T Morrissey for Mulcahy (35), R McCarthy for O’Brien (35), P Ryan for Browne (42), S Tobin for O’Donovan (51), K O’Brien for O’Mahony (63).
Ref – N Wall (Cork).