Limerick show mark of champions to shrug off early exit fears with Clare demolition
Limerick 1-28 Clare 0-13
All-Ireland champions, Limerick, met the threat of Championship eviction with a thunderous response in LIT Gaelic Grounds today, crushing their Shannonside neighbours.
It leaves Clare's hopes of survival hanging by the slenderest of threads, their poor scoring difference meaning that even a defeat of Cork in Ennis next weekend almost certainly won't be enough to keep them in All-Ireland contention if Tipperary beat Limerick.
It was exhibition stuff from John Kiely's men, their mojo now clearly restored after that opening round defeat to Cork.
They now face Tipp in Thurles next weekend knowing that a victory will most likely secure them a Munster final berth against the same opposition on June 30.
The eighteen points margin didn't flatter Limerick, their physical authority all over the field never really under threat from a Clare team that just couldn't get into the game.
From the throw-in, Limerick's energy reflected that of a team fighting for its championship life. They swarmed all over a Clare side still looking trapped in some kind of tactical puzzle after the previous weekend's heavy defeat to Tipperary.
Cian Lynch and William O'Donoghue were on top in midfield but, maybe more crucially, the Banner ploy of playing both Tony Kelly and Podge Collins in withdrawn, defensive roles was back-firing badly, an un-marked Limerick captain - Declan Hannon - mopping up loose ball almost at will.
It would take Clare half an hour just to register their opening and only first-half score from play, Peter Duggan flicking over when he might have passed inside to an un-marked John Conlon.
Damningly, Duggan would be the only Clare man to register a score in that half, his 0-7 (six frees) meaning the Banner trailed by eight points at the interval.
It could have been even worse, Kyle Hayes barrelling through paper-thin Clare defensive cover inside the opening 30 seconds only to be pulled down by Cathal Malone, allowing Aaron Gillane open Limerick's accound with an easy free.
Limerick led 0-6 to 0-1 inside ten minutes, Clare's puck-out strategy in disarray under the high press of the home team. That was caught in microcosm in the ninth minute when David McInerney got blocked down after a short delivery from Donal Tuohy, Gearoid Hegarty firing over.
Clare did have a couple of goal opportunities at the city-end, notably Aaron Shanagher denied by a good Nickie Quaid block in the ninth minute and Sean Finn then making a marvellous intervention with Conlon in mid-swing three minutes later.
Otherwise, it was largely one-way traffic though, Clare's difficulties encapsulated in first-half injury-time when Kelly was caught in possession on the edge of his own 'D', eventually fouling the ball for Gillane to add another Limerick free.
Peter Casey quickly a fifteenth point for the home side, meaning every Limerick forward had now scored from play against the team still waiting for a flag to be raised by five of theirs. And, with a lead of 0-15 to 0-7 going to their tea, it was hard to see the All-Ireland champions being reined in from there.
And sure enough, there was no deviation in the pattern of the game, the icing on the cake for Limerick coming with Gillane's 59th minute goal after which the remainder was, essentially, played out in a subdued atmosphere, Clare's championship seemingly having hit a ruinous cul-de-sac.
SCORERS: Limerick - A Gillane 1-11 (0-7 frees, 0-1 '65'), P Casey 0-4, T Morrissey 0-3, G Hegarty and G Mulcahy 0-2 each, D Byrnes, D Hannon, W O'Donoghue, K Hayes, D O'Donovan and S Dowling 0-1 each.
Clare - P Duggan 0-11 (0-8 frees, 0-1 line 'cut'), C Galvin and T Kelly 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: N Quaid, S Finn, M Casey, R English, D Byrnes, D Hannon, P O'Loughlin, C Lynch, W O'Donoghue, G Hegarty, K Hayes, T Morrissey, A Gillane, G Mulcahy, P Casey. Subs - D O'Donovan for O'Donoghue (55 mins), S Dowling for Hegarty (56 mins), D Morrissey for Hannon (62 mins), S Flanagan for Casey (62 mins), P Ryan for Mulcahy (68 mins).
CLARE: D Tuohy, P O'Connor, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald, C Malone, J Browne, C Cleary, S Golden, C Galvin, P Duggan, T Kelly, A Shanagher, S O'Donnell, J Conlon, P Collins. Subs - A McCarthy for Golden (half-time), D Ryan for Shanagher (49 mins), S Morey for Fitzgerald (52 mins), J McCarthy for Collins (59 mins)
Referee - J Owens (Wexford).