Munster SHC: Banner goals see off Limerick

June 22, 2008

Limerick's Ollie Moran lets off his shot as Clare's Brian O'Connell challenges during the Munster SHC semi-final at Thurles
Timely Clare goals were the difference as the Banner County defeated Limerick by 4-12 to 1-16 in an error-ridden Munster SHC semi-final at stormy Thurles. Conditions made defending difficult in the Semple Stadium cauldron and Clare took full advantage of their neighbours' defensive hesitancy to plunder four decisive three-pointers, two either side of the turnaround. Second-half strikes within three minutes from Barry Nugent and Diarmuid McMahon finally knocked the stuffing out of Limerick after Richie Bennis' side had closed within two minutes to make themselves favourites with 20 minutes left. Clare had the strong, swirling wind behind them in the first half but they never got into their rhythm and needed two rather fortunate goals - from Pat Vaughan and Jonathan Clancy - to take a seven-point advantage into the interval. Limerick began their first assignment of the 2008 championship season with eleven of their starting XV from last year's All-Ireland final and one of those men - Andrew O'Shaughnessy - opened the scoring in the second minute. The peerless Colin Lynch replied with a trademark point for the Banner but Mark Flaherty's wind-assisted free tailed wide. Either side of wides from Tony Carmody and Niall Gilligan, O'Shaughnessy converted a free after a late chop down on Stephen Lucey, who had cleared the ball. Conor Plunkett added to Clare's wides tally and Shaughs clipped his and Limerick's third score, followed immediately by a Carmody minor for Clare, 0-2 to 0-3. Lynch braced himself for a long evening after picking up a yellow card as early as the tenth minute and Niall Moran made it double scores with a lovely strike across his body on twelve minutes. Brian Murray made a super stop between the Limerick posts to deny Gilligan from close range but the Treaty County 'keeper was caught out seconds later when Pat Vaughan's long delivery evaded everybody and bounced between his legs for the game's opening goal. It was a fortuitous score but Clare didn't mind as they suddenly assumed a 1-2 to 0-4 lead. It was an advantage the winners would never relinquish. Niall Moran thought he had won a 65 at the start of the second quarter but he received a yellow card for lashing out instead. Fouls on Brian O'Connell presented Flaherty with his opening two points from a couple of 30-metre frees and Clare led by three, 1-4 to 0-4, after 25 minutes. Philip Brennan did well to prevent O'Shaughnessy's sideline cut from flying into the top corner of the Clare net but, at the other end, his opposite number could do nothing to stop Jonathan Clancy's groundstroke from crossing the line. Much to the Limerick goalie's frustration, Clare's second goal also went through his legs. Moran and Clancy swapped scores and Carmody's angled shot made it 2-6 to 0-5 in Clare's favour after 31 minutes. Seamus Hickey's spectacular diving block denied Carmody, who later got a yellow card for kicking out at Hickey. In first-half stoppage time, a very soft Clare free gifted Flaherty another point and that score put eight points between the sides. O'Shaughnessy banged over a late free but his side trailed by 2-7 to 0-6 at the break. But Limerick would have wind advantage after the resumption. Donal O'Grady and Clancy exchanged the first two points of the second half and Limerick were right back in the game on 38 minutes when slack Clare defending left Ollie Moran clean through on goal and the All Star No.11 made no mistake in finding the net to bring the gap down to four. Clare were rattled and Flaherty missed a straightforward free before Donie Ryan entered the fray for the team in green. The Banner changed their free-taker and Gilligan made no mistake from his first attempt, 2-9 to 1-7 and the game very much in the balance with 28 minutes left. Mike O'Brien floated over a magnificent point from distance after some super play from wing back Hickey, closing Limerick back within four points. O'Shaughnessy (free) and Ollie Moran - with an inspired effort - halved the gap and there were two in it with 20 to play. On 54 and 57 minutes, Clare made a sudden break for the winning line. Chaos in the Limerick defence resulted in goals for Barry Nugent and Diarmuid McMahon - 4-9 to 1-10. Game Over. Limerick were frustrated as a few decisions had gone against them, but Clare struck for goals at key moments to sprint into an unassailable lead. Niall Moran pulled back a Limerick point and the next four points were shared as Clare maintained their seven-point cushion, 4-11 to 1-13. The next point went to Niall Moran to leave six in it with as many minutes on the referee's watch. Damien Reale raced forward to close the margin further but there was no fluency to the play and a series of stoppages meant that the hurling was fractured and disjointed. Niall Moran got his fifth point from play in the last minute and four points separated the sides with three minutes of added time to play. Gilligan pointed in injury time and Clare had corner back Brian Bogler sent off in the third added minute, but the Banner were home and dry as their goalfest ensured a Tipp-Clare Munster SHC final. Clare - P Brennan; G O'Grady; F Lohan; B Bugler; P Vaughan (1-0); C Plunkett; P Donnellan; B O'Connell; C Lynch (0-1); D McMahon (1-0); T Griffin; J Clancy (1-2); N Gilligan (0-3, 2f); T Carmody (0-02); M Flaherty (0-03, 3f). Subs - D O'Rourke for Griffin, B Nugent (1-1) for Flaherty, G Quinn for Plunkett, F Lynch for McMahon. Limerick - B Murray; D Reale (0-1); S Lucey; M O'Riordan; S Hickey; P O'Dwyer; M Foley; D O'Grady (0-1); M O'Brien (0-1); M Fitzgerald; O Moran (1-1); N Moran (0-5); A O'Shaughnessy (0-6, 5f); S O'Connor; D Sheehan. Subs - D Ryan (0-1) for Sheehan, B Foley for Fitzgerald, P Tobin for O'Connor. Ref - E Morris (Dublin)


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