Allianz Hurling League Division 1B Final – Clare 0-21 Limerick 1-16

Clare promoted amid high drama at the Gaelic Grounds

Report from the web site

Limerick 1-16 Clare 0-21

Clare gained promotion to Division 1A of the Allianz National Hurling League thanks to a sensational comeback against Limerick in tonight’s 1B final at the Gaelic Grounds. Davy Fitzgerald’s battlers came from eight points down to stun the hosts – and set up a Division 1 semi-final showdown with Kilkenny on April 22. Nicky O’Connell put Clare in front in stoppage time from a 65 before Conor McGrath, who bagged 12 points, popped over the insurance score.

The stakes were high and sparks flew in the first half as rival bosses Fitzgerald and John Allen squared up to each other. Shortly after, Limerick midfielder James Ryan barrelled into Fitzgerald and was lucky to escape with just a booking. Afterwards, Fitzgerald indicated to reporters that he felt Clare gained from the touchline skirmish, insisting that Ryan’s focus was taken off his hurling. Up to that point, Limerick were dominating and particularly at midfield, where Ryan and Paul Browne were calling the tune.

Limerick were six points up twice in the first half and should have had more than a 0-11 to 0-8 lead at half-time. Tommy Quaid missed a couple of goal chances, hitting his first effort tamely at Nickie Quaid before the Limerick shotstopper with the famous surname produced a remarkable diving save to keep out the corner forward. Before the break, Sean Collins had a goal chance for Clare at the other end after captain Patrick Donnellan and McGrath, selling a couple of beautiful dummies, created the opening.

Ten minutes after half-time, however, Limerick had turned a three-point half-time advantage into an eight-point lead. Shane Dowling buried an unstoppable 43rd minute penalty before Graeme Mulcahy and sub Seanie O’Brien added points.

But Clare came roaring back with a run of seven unanswered points to cut the gap back to just one as 9,897 spectators watched enthralled. Limerick stopped the rot through Ryan in the 57th minute before Treaty shotstopper Quaid denied Clare ace John Conlon with a superb save ten minutes from time. Nicky O’Connell pointed the 65 before Clare sub Aaron Cunningham tied the scores at 0-18 to 1-15 with less than ten minutes remaining.

In a remarkable finish, Clare hit the front for the first time since the third minute when the classy McGrath flashed over a superb 66th minute score. Limerick sub Seanie O’Brien levelled matters again before Clare found the crucial scores at the death. This was the fourth time that the near neighbours had met in competitive fare this year – following on from two clashes in the Waterford Crystal Cup and a one-sided Clare victory in the opening round of National League fixtures.

When Clare travelled to the Gaelic Grounds in late February, they inflicted a 14-point defeat on the hosts but John Allen’s charges had improved considerably since then. It was also a repeat of last year’s Division 2 decider, won by Limerick in Ennis, and spectators arrived to the Gaelic Grounds anticipating a cracking game on an ideal evening for hurling. They weren’t disappointed as Limerick held sway for long periods against a Clare side held to just two points from play in the first half. But there was a late twist in the tale as Limerick were left to rue another painful home defeat and as things stand, they face another season in Division 1B.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O’Grady, G O’Mahoney; P Browne, J Ryan (0-1); S Dowling (1-7, 1-0 pen, 4f, 1 65), D Breen, C Allis; G Mulcahy (0-3), N Moran (0-1), T Quaid (0-1).

Subs: S O’Brien (0-2) for Breen (35+3), K Downes (0-1) for Moran (h.t.), S Tobin for T Quaid (41), M Ryan for Allis (61).

CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney; B Bugler, J McInerney, P O’Connor; N O’Connell (0-3, 2 65s, 1f), P Donnellan (0-1); C Morey, S Collins, E Barrett; C Ryan (0-3), C McGrath (0-12, 10f), J Conlon (0-1).

Subs: A Cunningham (0-1) for Morey (51).

Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)


Defiant Clare showing their steel

Limerick 1-16 Clare 0-21

By Diarmuid O’Flynn, Gaelic Grounds for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald and his Limerick counterpart John Allen had a hot little ‘tete-a-tete’ on the sidelines of this Allianz Hurling League Division 1B final at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening. But it was nothing compared to the head to head between their two fired-up teams on the field of play. This was a tremendous match, Limerick twice streaking into big leads (six points in the first half, eight 10 minutes into the second), only for Clare’s youth and fitness to win out. “Ah it was a thing of nothing,” said Allen of his 25th minute ‘chat’ with Fitzgerald. “Just a few words exchanged — nothing worth talking about.” Fitzgerald was equally dismissive: “The skirmish didn’t do them (his team) any harm.”

And indeed that seemed to be the case. Limerick began like a team possessed, their outstanding play epitomised by the all-action James Ryan in midfield with probably his finest game in green. They led by four after 10 minutes (0-6 to 0-2), Shane Dowling and Graeme Mulcahy on fire before extending that lead to six by the 22nd minute (0-10 to 0-4). It should have been more as two gilt-edged goal chances were scorned. Corner-forward Tommy Quaid fluffed the first and Clare keeper Patrick Kelly denied him a few minutes later with a superb save.

Kelly would make another fine save from Dowling in the 67th minute while at the other end Nicky Quaid surely made the save of the game with a brilliant reflex stop of a John Conlon point-blank effort on the hour mark. Then came the little sideline altercation which seemed to spur Clare to life. They finished strongly before the break with Conor McGrath continuing his exhibition from placed balls, to trail by just a score (0-11 to 0-8) as they headed for the dressing rooms.

The second half saw Limerick again take early control, and when Shane Dowling buried a penalty in the 42nd minute after a foul on Seanie Tobin, followed by points from Graeme Mulcahy and Seanie O’Brien, the gap had opened to eight points (1-14 to 0-9) and it looked Limerick’s to lose. Lose they did though, and how. Seven points on the trot by Clare with McGrath (4) midfielder Nicky O’Connell, Colin Ryan and John Conlon on target cut the deficit to one by the 56th minute. James Ryan stemmed the bleeding for Limerick with a point but it didn’t hold and it was Clare who finished the stronger as points from Nicky O’Connell (65) and McGrath securing the title.

“It was a great game to win,” said McGrath. “I thought we were really in trouble after Shane Dowling scored the penalty. We beat them earlier in the league but they didn’t perform to the level they’re capable of that night. We were expecting a huge battle and that’s exactly what we got. Every score was earned, it could have gone either way so we are delighted.” His manager was equally happy. Fitzgerald said: “We didn’t play out of our skins in the first half but that was down to Limerick and how they tackled and blocked. They were vicious but they had to be vicious after what happened to them in the first round of the league. We knew that but we still had a bit of character.”

A lot of character but a hell of a lot of fitness, much more so than Limerick, a point accepted by John Allen. “They just got on top of s and maintained their dominance. They finished very strongly but they’ve been doing that all year. We produced a massive effort in the first half and for the third quarter but probably ran out of steam. “Given how poorly we performed in our first league game against them, certainly this was a much better performance and a much better game. We’re now heading into the championship (against Tipperary) in better shape.”

Scorers for Clare: C McGrath 0-12 (0-10f); C Ryan 0-3; N O’Connell 0-3 (1f, 0-2 65); J Conlon, P Donnellan, A Cunningham, 0-1 each.

Subs for Clare: A Cunningham (C Morey 51). Blood sub: S Morey (O’Connor 30).

Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 1-7 (1-0p, 0-4f, 0-1 65); G Mulcahy 0-3; S O’Brien 0-2; J Ryan, N Moran, T Quaid, K Downes, 0-1 each.

Subs for Limerick: S O’Brien (Breen inj. 35+2); K Downes (Moran 35); S Tobin (T Quaid 41); M Ryan (Allis 61).

Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)