Limerick hold nerve to deny Clare in feisty Munster championship encounter
Limerick 1-19 Clare 2-15
LIKE any good drama this Munster quarter final began slowly but climaxed in a dramatic finale at Semple Stadium before an attendance of 21,915.
When the dust settled Limerick were through to the semi-final on June 21st where they will have home advantage at the Gaelic Grounds against Tipperary.
Clare, meanwhile, are still seeking their first win in the Munster championship since Davy Fitzgerald took charge in 2012.
There was no shortage of controversy as Clare captain Pat Donnellan and Limerick substitute Sean Tobin were both red carded - the latter, indeed, is likely to enter the record books as he spent less than ten seconds on the field.
The contest also featured a sensational debut for Limerick teenager Cian Lynch. A nephew of former Limerick star Ciaran Carey, Lynch captained Limerick in last year's All-Ireland minor final.
But on his senior debut he came of age with a sensational performance scoring three points and making life very uncomfortable for two experienced Clare defenders Domhnall O'Donovan and his replacement Seadna Morey.
Arguably, Clare substitute Aaron Cunningham made an even more sensational impact. Introduced in his 54th minute he scored a goal with his first touch and his second goal six minutes from the end set up a standstill finish.
A wonderful point from Shane O'Donnell - who did well as Clare's point man on the edge of the square - in the 66th minute levelled the contest. But a 68th minute point from Limerick substitute John Fitzgibbon won the game for the Treaty County who lost to Clare in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.
There was controversy too after the final whistle when having initially indicated that there would be one minute of injury time played the fourth official's board displayed the figure 4 - which suggested that four minutes would be played.
In the event one minute was played and the referee clearly indicated as he walked off the pitch that he had planned to play one minute of extra time.
Limerick had the advantage of the breeze in the first half. But while they they lead 0-7; 0-4 after 20 minutes, with Shane Dowling off target with four frees it was advantage Clare - who trailed by a single points (0-9; 0-8) when referee Colm Lyons signalled the end of the first half.
But a row broke out just as the whistle sounded and Clare's Pat Donnellan's struck Limerick captain Donal O'Grady with his hurl. The referee flashed a red card at Donnellan who became the fourth Clare player to be dismissed in the team's last three championship game.
Seamus Hickey was Limerick's extra-man at the start of the second half but with John Conlon growing increasingly influential the Banner County stayed in touch and the teams were level on three occasions in the first ten minutes of the period.
But with Dowling's accuracy from frees improving - he ended with an impressive 0-11 tally - Limerick were 0-16 to 0-13 ahead by the 53rd minute.
Then a long deliver from Dowling wasn't dealt with by the Clare defence and Graeme Mulcahy goaled from close range to put his side six points clear.
Straight from the puck-out Shane O'Donnell linked up with Cunningham who found the net at the other end and a Tony Kelly points left it a two point game with 15 minutes left.
Limerick were then reduced to 14 men in bizarre circumstances. Substitute Sean Tobin got involved with is marker Pat O'Connor as soon as he was introduced - he poked his hurl in the Clareman's ribs and was shown a straight red.
But in their moment of crisis Limerick initially held their nerve with a wonderful catch and point from 19 year old Lynch following by a Dowling free.
And even though Clare got level it was Limerick's day with Fitzgibbon's winner.
So Clare were still searching for their first championship win since their 2013 All-Ireland replay success over Cork - indeed, they had only won one competitive game since beating Laois in the League quarter final in the spring of 2014.
Limerick, meanwhile, will be remind of the fact that no team since Cork in 1966 has come from from the quarter final of the Munster championship - when Kerry wasn't involved - to win the All-Ireland.
Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, C Dillon, D McInerney; J Browne, Conor Ryan, P Donnellan, G O'Connell, P O'Connor; S Golden (0-1), T Kelly (0-2), Colin Ryan (0-7, 5f); D Reilly (0-1), S O'Donnell (0-1), J Conlon (0-2). Subs: A Cunnigham (2-1) for Reidy 48m; S Morey for o'Donovan 55m; B Duggan for O'Connell 58m; D Honan for Golden 68m; N O'Connell for Kelly 69m
Limerick: B Hennessy; S Walsh, R McCarthy, S Hickey; S O'Brien (0-1), G O'Mahony, T Condon (0-1); J Ryan, P O'Brien (0-1); D O'Grady, D Hannon, P Browne; G Mulcahy (1-1), S Dowling (0-11, 10f, 1 65)), C Lynch (0-3). Subs S Tobin for O'Grady 55m; D Morrissey for Walsh 63m; J Fitzgibbon (0-1) for Ryan 66m; W McNamara for Hickey 67m; K Downes for Browne 71m.
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)