Ice-cool Gillane earns draw for Limerick in intense local derby
Clare 2-11 Limerick 1-14
This endurance test in the sleet and freezing cold in Ennis will be worth a month of boot camps to Limerick and Clare as they toughen up for another feast of championship hurling.
The booming music coming from the dressing room behind him as John Kiely assessed the game afterwards suggested that the All-Ireland champions might have boosted their music collection on their holidays in Mexico during the winter.
But any last vestiges of warm beaches and holiday time was drained from them as they squared up to their neighbours, the only side to beat them in the championship last summer.
Full credit then to both sides for producing an honest and full-blooded contest which kept the freezing crowd of 8,409 on their feet as they, like the players, shivered in the Arctic conditions.
The announcement by the guy on the PA asking fans not to go onto the pitch at the end was met with derision. Getting to the warmth of the pub or the car was all that occupied the mind of even the most diehard supporter.
"All in all, it was a good battle on a hard, winter's day," said Kiely. "I think it sets it up for again later in the year.
"Any day you come here and get something you'd have to be happy with it. I thought the attitude of our players today was fantastic.
"A couple of lads got a go again today. I thought Paddy O'Loughlin did exceptionally well at wing-back, really strong. Peter Casey started and had a really good game as well. And Colin Ryan in the middle of the field, Willie O'Meara came off the bench early doors, I was delighted with those guys, it was good to get more game-time into them."
Kiely's men looked set to bounce back from their loss to Cork when they led by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break, having played against the wind.
But Clare made a superb start to the second half with Shane Golden racing through to score and Gary Cooney equalising, all in less than two minutes after the restart.
"We were very disappointed that we conceded the goal straight after half-time," added Kiely.
His men got a grip on proceedings when Gearóid Hegarty made the most of some sloppy defending to race through and fire home a good goal after eight minutes.
That wiped out Clare's good start which yielded points for Tony Kelly and the impressive Shane Golden.
Referee Paud O'Dwyer, perhaps wisely in the conditions, blew for frees and throw-ins with regularity, with Gillane and Duggan hitting three each from frees in the opening half.
The Clare full-forward line made little headway but at the other end Gillane and Peter Casey won a lot of frees and wing-back Paddy O'Loughlin from Kilmallock laid down a marker with a strong showing which he crowned with a great point.
Clare made a blistering start after the restart with Golden racing through for a good goal and Gary Cooney levelled inside two minutes, setting up an entertaining second half.
The win looked to be heading Clare's way when first goalkeeper Donal Tuohy produced a stunning penalty save from Gillane and then later in the half Golden set up Duggan for a goal which put them 2-10 to 1-11 in front with ten minutes left.
Gillane and Duggan exchanged points but Limerick kept their composure and got a deserved share of the spoils as Gillane landed two late frees. On a very difficult day for hurling, Clare shot just three wides and Limerick hit four.
"I've been in hurling a long time but I have never seen players shivering at half-time," said Clare joint manager Donal Moloney. "We had to do a full scale warm-up at half-time in the dressing room to keep them going. They were actually shaking.
"I think the crowd got value for money. I haven't seen so much passion in a championship match.
"We would have liked to have won it, especially after going ahead in the second half but Limerick are worthy All-Ireland champions and they got a couple of points to pull it back there towards the end.
"But after being four or five points down we are quite happy with it. Limerick fought back as well when they were behind but that's what top teams do when they go toe-to-toe."
Moloney said these sort of games will help them as they prepare for the championship and he firmly believes teams need to be showing form at this time of the year. "I don't think you are going to see much change in intensity between league and championship, there's only six or seven weeks between them. It's not as if teams are going to reinvent themselves in between. We are very happy where we are at as we look forward to the championship," added Moloney.
Scorers - Clare: P Duggan 1-6 (6f), S Golden 1-1, D Ryan 0-2, T Kelly, G Cooney 0-1 each. Limerick: A Gillane 0-8 (8f), G Hegarty 1-0, P Casey 0-3, P O'Loughlin, K Hayes, C Ryan ('65) 0-1 each.
Clare - D Tuohy 8; R Hayes 6, D McInerney 6, J Browne 6; P O'Connor 6, C Cleary 7, D Fitzgerald 7; S Golden 8, C Galvin 7; P Duggan 7, T Kelly 6, D Ryan 7; I Galvin 6, N Deasy 6, P Collins 6. Subs: G Cooney 7 for I Galvin (34), O O'Brien 6 for McInerney (36), C Malone 6 for O'Connor (50), A McCarthy 6 for Deasy (55), A Shanager 6 for Ryan (65).
Limerick - N Quaid 7; T Condon 7, S Finn 5, R English 7; P O'Loughlin 8, D Hannon 7, D Morrisey 6; C Lynch 7, C Ryan 7; G Hegarty 7, K Hayes 7, T Morrisey 6; A Gillane 7, S Flanagan 6, P Casey 7. Subs: W O'Meara 7 for Finn (7), D O'Donovan 6 for Ryan (49), G Mulcahy 6 for Flanagan (60), D Dempsey 6 for Hegarty (63), S Dowling 6 for T Morrissey (65).
Ref - P O'Dwyer (Carlow)