Munster U21HC: terrific Treaty shoot down 14-man Banner

May 07, 2018

Clare's Cathal Darcy and Paddy O'Loughlin of Limerick ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Limerick opened their Munster and All-Ireland U21 defences with a facile 3-18 to 0-13 victory over 14-man Clare at Ennis.

The result earns the holders a massive semi-final date with Tipperary in Thurles on June 21st. A young Clare combination tried hard but - with five of last year's minor team starting - couldn't quite match this potent Limerick outfit.

With 3,135 taking in both the action and the glorious evening sunshine at Cusack Park, Clare played most of the second half with 14 men after crucially having corner back Conor O'Halloran dismissed within 90 seconds of the restart.

That proved to be the turning point as the losers had kept their goal intact prior to then but their brave resistance was eventually broken 15 minutes from the end when Seamus Flanagan bagged the breakthrough Limerick goal - a score that had, in fairness, been coming for a long time.

Conor Boylan added the favourites' second major eight minutes from time and substitute Mark O'Dwyer claimed their third two minutes later.

The defending provincial and All-Ireland champions - with as many as nine 2017 All-Ireland medallists in their starting XV - led by ten points to four with two minutes left in the opening period but Clare landed four unanswered scores to trail by just two at the end of a 33-minute first half, 0-10 to 0-8.

Limerick had six different scorers before the break, with Man of the Match Brian Ryan striking four times from play (and twice more in the second half). They should have been out of sight before the interval but squandered three opportunities to hit the net before that late, late Clare flurry granted them an unlikely if brief foothold.

It was mostly one-way traffic early on and the Treaty led by four points to one when Ryan flashed a shot inches over the Clare crossbar in the ninth minute. A minute later, corner forward Darren O'Connell cut in from the left wing to supply the winners' fifth score.

The Banner's shooting let them down as they passed up on a couple of presentable scoring opportunities before full forward Flanagan nonchalantly popped up in the 14th minute to make it 0-6 to 0-1. When Stephen Conway posted an excellent Clare point, Limerick's Paddy O'Loughlin replied in kind with a superb fetch and finish to leave five between the sides at the midway stage in the first half.

Gary Cooney benefited from a purposeful Colin Guilfoyle run to slot for the hosts in the 18th minute; moments later, the holders spurned their third goal-scoring chance of the match. Showing no ill effects from a smack to the face from the sliothar, Ryan dusted himself down to nail a delightful point but an Aidan McCarthy free had the Banner back within four eight minutes from the break, 0-8 to 0-4.

Ryan made it 0-9 to 0-4 in the 24th minute; centre forward Barry Murphy all-too-easily stretched the gap to six mere seconds later. John Carmody's injury-hit charges - forced to field without potentially influential trio Aron Shanagher, Cathal Noonan and Martin Daly - could have been much closer but for a tendency to drop the ball straight into the grasp of grateful Treaty custodian Jamie Power.

However, late strikes from substitute Padraic O'Loughlin, Cooney - a wonderscore from the left sideline - and McCarthy (two frees) dramatically sliced the deficit and ensured that the gap was just two at the short whistle.

A Flanagan goal effort flew right and wide within seconds of the restart but the tide turned very much in Limerick's favour when play went back for a free-in and Clare corner back O'Halloran was sent off for a late, illegal challenge on O'Connell. The free was converted but it was the loss of a man that did most damage to the home side.

McCarthy hammered over another long-range free to keep their hopes alive but the dependable Murphy replied in kind at the other end before Ryan pointed from the restart to make it 0-13 to 0-9 with five minutes played in the second half.

Killian Nugent executed a fabulous diving save down low to his left to deny Flanagan a Limerick major. The 14 men refused to roll over and, at the other end, substitute O'Loughlin was on hand to clip over his second to nudge his team back within three points. The hosts rallied manfully but one attack culminated in a shot off the upright before the next one saw the sliothar yet again dropped into Power's hands. County senior Flanagan then pointed from more than 50 metres and it was 0-14 to 0-10 with 19 minutes to go.

McCarthy sweetly lashed another free between the Limerick posts from out wide on the left but the seemingly-inevitable opening Limerick goal finally arrived at the three-quarters stage when Murphy jinked inside the depleted Clare defence and picked out Flanagan, who this time netted via Nugent - 1-14 to 0-11 after 45 minutes.

Back came the spirited 14 men with points from McCarthy (free) and substitute Sean O'Loughlin but Boylan brilliantly swept the second Limerick goal along the deck to the bottom corner of the net in the 52nd minute to settle the issue as a meaningful contest: 2-14 to 0-13.

Ryan was never far from the action and he duly knocked over his sixth from play before substitute O'Dwyer hared through the tiring Clare defence to fire the victors' third three-pointer on 54 minutes.

Boylan deftly flicked over the 16th Limerick point and O'Dwyer posted their next before Murphy closed the scoring from an injury-time free. Without having been at their best, Limerick prevailed by 14 points and will clearly take a lot of beating again in 2018.

Limerick - J Power; B McPartland, J Adams, J Flynn; D Minehan, K Hayes, T Grimes; P O'Loughlin (0-1), M Mackey; B Ryan (0-6), B Murphy (0-5, 4f), C Boylan (1-2); D O'Connell (0-1), S Flanagan (1-2), O O'Reilly. Subs: P Ahern for D O'Connell, W O'Meara for D Minehan, M O'Dwyer (1-1) for O O'Reilly, M Houlihan for B Ryan, B Timmons for B McPartland.

Clare - K Nugent; B Higgins, R Hayes, C O'Halloran; D Ryan, J McCarthy, P McNamara; M Corry (0-1), K Galvin; S Conway (0-1), G Cooney (0-2), A McCarthy (0-6f); J Carmody, C Guilfoyle, B Connors. Subs: P O'Loughlin (0-2) for J Carmody, S O'Loughlin (0-1) for S Conway, L O'Connor for M Corry, C Darcy for K Galvin, M O'Shea for B Connors.

Referee - P Kelly.



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