All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Banner power into decider

August 18, 2013

Limerick's David Breen and Brendan Bugler of Clare battle for possession.
©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan.
Clare 1-22
Limerick 0-18

Clare have qualified for their first All-Ireland final in 11 years after proving much too good for Limerick at Croke Park today.

Before an attendance of 62,972, Davy Fitzgerald's young side led from start to finish to set up a September 8 showdown with Cork in what will be a repeat of last June's Munster SHC semi-final which the Rebels won by eight points. If the Banner can reproduce this afternoon's performance, they will stand a great chance of exacting revenge on hurling's biggest day.

Clare were full value for their seven-point victory, having led by the same margin (1-10 to 0-6) after Darrach Honan scored the game's only goal in the 12th minute. Limerick looked nervous throughout and may well have been affected by the hype which has engulfed the county since their first Munster title triumph in 17 years. The five-week layoff since then may also have played a part in their demise.

But you can't take anything away from Clare who were stronger, shaper and tactically more astute. Colin Ryan was unerring from frees and open play, helping himself to 0-11 (0-9 from placed balls) in a near flawless display of shooting. Tony Kelly also showed why he is one of the brightest prospects in the game by firing over four from play.

In contrast to Ryan, Limerick free-taker Declan Hannon had an afternoon to forget as he accounted for half of his side's 10 wides in the first half. Substitute Shane Dowling scored 0-6 after he took over the free-taking duties in the second half, but the Munster champions were always chasing the game and never got any closer than four points as the Banner impressively progressed to the decider.

The throw-in was delayed for over 15 minutes owing to the extra-time in the minor game between Galway and Clare. Both teams lined out as selected and it was the Banner who signalled their intent with early points from half backs Pat Donnellan and Pat O'Connor.

Colin Ryan caught the Limerick defence napping when his quick free found an unmarked Donnellan for the first, while the Clare free-taker also provided the pass for O'Connor's fifth-minute effort. Clare's early advantage would have wiped out but for a brilliant Patrick Kelly save from Graeme Mulcahy at the expense of a '65', which Declan Hannon missed.

The off-colour Hannon eventually opened the Munster champions' account from a free in the eighth minute after Seamus Hickey had been fouled. But Clare remained in the ascendancy as Tony Kelly emerged from a ruck to fire over an inspirational point before the big score of the first half arrived in the 12th minute.

After Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid and his defence had failed to deal with Colin Ryan's long delivery, Podge Collins and Darrach Honan combined to squeeze the ball over the line (TV replays suggested that Honan got the final touch with his boot). A scrappy goal it might have been, but they all count.

The Banner were flying and Colin Ryan quickly extended their lead to six points, 1-4 to 0-1, with an excellent free from an acute angle. Limerick's misery was compounded by the sight of Seamus Hickey being stretchered off with an apparent knee injury after a quarter an hour. He was replaced by Conor Allis who made an immediate impact with a classy point.

Hannon had racked up three wides from frees before he landed his second point in the 20th minute. Limerick continued to be overcome by nerves and expectation, though, as another mistake resulted in a Podge Collins point.

A big talking point came in the 22nd minute when James Ryan had a long-range effort waved wide, only for referee Johnny Ryan to award a point after sensibly consulting with his umpires. The confusion was only added to by the absence of Hawkeye, which was stood down because of an "inconsistency in the generation of the graphic" in the minor game.

Colin Ryan quickly restored Clare's five-point advantage with a monster free before Paul Browne got one back for the Treaty after Pat Donnellan had cheaply given away possession. The momentum remained with Davy Fitzgerald's men, however, as Ryan grabbed his first from play, Podge Collins sent over his second and Tony Kelly also scored his second after jinking pass his marker.

Limerick's problems were such that they were forced to introduce Shane Dowling after 31 minutes in place of the ineffective Seanie Tobin. Half back Gavin O'Mahony showed the Treaty forwards how it's done with a great score, but Ryan had the final say from another long-range free to leave the Banner perched on a seven-point lead at the break.

Shane Dowling took over the Limerick free-taking duties for the second half and the huge Treaty support were asking themselves why wasn't he on the frees from the start after he converted three in the opening four minutes to reduce Clare's lead to four, 1-10 to 0-9.

Colin Ryan (free) and Graeme Mulcahy traded points before Kelly and Ryan added to their respective tallies. Paul Browne replied for Limerick, but it was all Clare now as Colm Galvin got in on the scoring act with a superb point off his left, and Podge Collins and Tony Kelly followed with further minors to leave eight in it, 1-16 to 0-11, at the end of the third quarter.

Breen and Dowling (free) pulled back scores for Limerick, but they already looked a beaten docket as Colin Ryan shot two more frees either side of a Gavin O'Mahony sideline.

Ryan and Dowling exchanged scores before the next three points were scored by substitutes - Tom Ryan (Limerick), Cathal McInerney (Clare) and Kevin Downes (Limerick).

With three minutes remaining, Graeme Mulcahy was fouled just outside the large parallelogram and Dowling opted to go for goal. But he was foiled as Patrick Kelly saved at the expense of a '65, which Dowling sent over.

That left five in it, but Clare had never looked in any danger of losing and it was Ryan who hammered the final nails into Limerick's coffin with two points (the second from play) in the closing stages.

Scorers - Clare: C Ryan 0-11 (9f), T Kelly 0-4, D Honan 1-0, P Collins 0-3, P Donnellan, P O'Connor, C Galvin, C McInerney 0-1 each. Limerick: S Dowling 0-6 (5f, 1 65'), D Hannon (2f), P Browne, G O'Mahony 0-2 each, C Allis, J Ryan, G Mulcahy, D Breen, T Ryan, K Downes 0-1 each.

Clare: Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O'Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon; Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan, Patrick O'Connor; Colm Galvin, Colin Ryan; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Conor Ryan; Pádraic Collins, Darach Honan, Conor McGrath. Subs: Fergal Lynch for J Conlon (44), Cathal McInerney for D Honan (63), Nicky O'Connell for C Galvin (67), Shane O'Donnell for C McGrath (70).

Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Paudie O Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O Mahony; Paul Browne, Dónal O'Grady (c); David Breen, James Ryan, Seamus Hickey; Graham Mulcahy, Declan Hannon, Seanie Tobin. Subs: Conor Allis for S Hickey (15), Shane Dowling for S Tobin (32), Niall Moran for D Hannon (50), Thomas Ryan for C Allis (56), Kevin Downes for D Breen (63).

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).

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