Lynch the Limerick hero as Clare's four-in-a-row bid comes to an end
LIMERICK 0-22 CLARE 0-19
Clare’s bid for a fourth successive Munster U-21 title was toppled in their own backyard as Ronan Lynch gave an exhibition of point-scoring to capture Limerick’s seventh title in the grade.
The Na Piarsaigh clubman, a minor last year, hit 0-13 in a superb display in Ennis as Limerick showed real character against the breeze in the second half.
Clare just had no answer to the powerful showing produced by Limerick and in the end not only surrendered the provincial crown they have held for the past three years but also the All-Ireland crown they have held since 2012.
But they could have few complaints after failing to build on a strong position at half-time as Limerick, bidding for their first title since 2011, took control after the restart of a gripping encounter.
The sides were level five times in the opening half but Clare finished strongly to lead by 0-12 to 0-10 at the break despite playing against the breeze.
The pace of the game was always high in front of a crowd of 14,311 and both sides enjoyed periods of supremacy during an entertaining first half which saw Limerick start with a flourish with points from David Dempsey and Darragh O’Donovan.
But the champions settled and a second-minute point from Shane Gleeson got them moving and the Cratloe man edged the Banner in front for the first time after Shane O’Donnell had levelled.
Bobby Duggan’s first free of the evening pushed Clare 0-4 to 0-2 ahead after seven minutes, but the response from Limerick was excellent as both sides picked off some great points from distance. Limerick rattled off the next six points without reply as Clare went 17 minutes without scoring.
Senior star Cian Lynch was a constant threat for Limerick and won plenty of frees as he constantly took on his man, and with Ronan Lynch in superb form, they were not long hauling back the holders.
Ronan Lynch hit a ‘65 and a free to tie the match after 12 minutes before he put Limerick back in front with another free.
Clare were struggling to stem the flow and another Lynch free and superb efforts from play by Robbie Hanley and David Dempsey made it 0-8 to 0-4 to Limerick after 23 minutes.
The Clare revival was sparked by corner-back Eoin Quirke with an excellent point from out the field and Clare followed that score up with four more points in as many minutes, with Duggan getting a couple and David Conroy and Ian Galvin also finding the range.
Cian Lynch pulled back a point for Limerick but Galvin finished the half strongly as he swapped points with Ronan Lynch to tie the game for the fifth time.
Clare would probably have been content to go in level at the break but they pushed on and Gleeson’s third point of the half was followed by another from Duggan to lead by two at the end of the first period.
Limerick, with JP McManus and Tony McCoy watching them from the stand after flying in from the Galway Races, fell a goal behind less than half a minute after the restart when Galvin landed his third point.
Then Stephen Ward extended Clare’s lead to four points when he landed a superb sideline cut to make it 0-14 to 0-10.
There was a danger of the game slipping away from Limerick but when they needed leadership Ronan Lynch stepped forward and hit two quick points, one a free and one from play to halve the margin.
Those scores lifted Limerick and a good run by Colin Ryan won another free which Ronan Lynch duly pointed to leave one between them on 39 minutes. Limerick continued to take on the Clare defence at every opportunity and Ronan Lynch levelled them for the sixth time before he fired over an excellent effort from play to put Limerick back in front at 0-15 to 0-14 after 43 minutes.
The ding-dong battle continued and the lead lasted hardly a minute.
Clare were struggling to get enough ball into Shane O’Donnell but when they did the senior star looked dangerous and Mark O’Callaghan was booked for hauling him down before Duggan tied the sides for the seventh time with the resultant free.
Clare made little use of the wind in the second half and it was Limerick who again took control with the superb Lynch edging them back in front with another free before Colin Ryan doubled their lead.
Quirke scored his second point of the match to cut the gap to the minimum with nine minutes left but it took a superb save from goalkeeper Keith Hogan to keep them in the game when he denied Cian Lynch, but Ronan Lynch pointed the resultant ’65 and Limerick always looked good for victory from there on.
Tom Morrissey and Ronan Lynch extended the lead to four and while Galvin and Duggan halved the deficit, Clare never looked like getting the goal they needed and Jack Kelliher sealed the Limerick win with a late point after coming on to set up an All-Ireland semi-final date with Galway in their quest for a first All-Ireland title at the grade since 2002.
SCORERS – Limerick: R Lynch 0-13 (8fs, 2 ’65s), D Dempsey 0-2, D O’Donovan, R Hanley, C Lynch, C Ryan, T Morrissey, P Ryan, J Kelliher 0-1 each. Clare: B Duggan 0-6 (5fs), I Galvin 0-4, S Gleeson 0-3, E Quirke 0-2, D Conroy, S O’Donnell, S Ward (sl), M O’Malley 0-1 each.
LIMERICK – D McCarthy; M O’Callaghan, R English, M Casey; D Byrnes, B O’Connell, G Hegarty; D O’Donovan, P Ryan; R Lynch, R Hanley, C Lynch; C Ryan, T Morrissey, D Dempsey. Subs: S Flanagan for Hegarty (35), A La Touche-Cosgrove (36), S Finn for O’Callaghan (46), J Kelliher for Morrissey (61).
CLARE – K Hogan; A McGuane, D Fitzgerald, S O’Brien; C Cleary, B O’Gorman; D Conroy; K Hehir, E Quirke; B Duggan, S Gleeson, I Galvin; S O’Donnell, S Ward, R Taylor. Subs: M O’Malley for Gleeson (45), N Deacy for Hehir (48), D Moloney for Ward (53), C Crehan for Taylor (59).
REF – F Horgan (Tipperary)