Clare lose out narrowly to Limerick in epic Munster Final

All the Omens before the first meeting of the Shannonside neighbours in a Munster Final since 1995 pointed to an  occasion for the ages in Semple Stadium Thurles.

As Clare FM’s Syl O’Connor pointed out during the station’s live commentary, it was the first time in memory both starting fifteen’s remained behind the Artane band for a rousing rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann. Not to mention the family affair on the 13metre line with first cousins Seamus and Paul Flannagan marshalling one another.

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The conditions played a decisive factor in an incredibly physically intensive first half summed up by Clare’s man mountain John Conlon loosing his helmet in the skirmishes just 30 seconds in.

Tony Kelly opened the scoring two and a half minutes in from a placed ball, followed by a magnificent demonstration of skill from Peter Duggan pointing directly from a sideline to double Clare’s advantage.

Clooney – Quin clubmate Ryan Taylor opened his Munster final account on seven minutes before sharpshooter Aaron Gillane triggered the first Limerick shout of the day with a free on the 45.

From there the helter skelter exchanges continued as the superb Seamus Flannagan made his introduction to score his first of four points from play in the first half. In a tit for tat first half the work ethic of Clare’s defence provided the perfect launching pad for the counter offensive as Rory Hayes and Conor Clearly set up David Fitzgerald for two outlandish scores.

The Game’s only major came 26 Minutes in when a long Nickie Quaid Free was caught superbly by Tom Morrissey before being off loaded to Gearóid Hegarty who buried the sliotar in the bottom right corner of Eibhear Quilligan’s net.

Seamus Flannagan, Tom Morrissey and Tony Kelly all exchanged points as the half time whistle blew with the sides level at Limerick 1-11 to Clare’s 0-14 Points.

Immediately On the restart David Fitz pointed another of his trademark long distance efforts restoring Clare’s advantage.

The Second period took flight in the same fashion as its predecessor to the approval of every member of the capacity 45,000 Crowd in FBD Semple Stadium Thurles as Cathal O’Neill replied with a point after a goal saving challenge on Aaron Gillane from John Conlon on 42 minutes.

The usual suspects at this juncture supplied the goods for their sides as Gillane, Morrissey and Darragh O’Donovan snapped up three scores for the Treaty while Tony Kelly, David Fitz and an historic score from Shane Meehan  on 59 minutes becoming the first Banner club man to play and score in a Munster Hurling Final levelling the sides at Clare 0-20 to Limerick 1-17.

Peter Duggan took over free taking duties from his captain on 62 minutes to restore a Banner advantage. Seamus Flannagan and Aaron Gillane then combined to score three in a row for Limerick . Peter Duggan replied for Clare before both team captains showed their leadership on the field.

First stepped up Na Piarsagh clubman Declan Hannon on 72 minutes to all but secure the first ever Mick Mackey Cup for Limerick. Until the moment of the match which will live long in the memory of fans across all sporting codes when the magnificent Tony Kelly went beyond every superlative in existence to point a dramatic final puck of the game side line from the tightest of angles to send the Munster final into extra time.

Limerick came out of the traps the better in the first period of extra time. Thanks to three scores without reply, two from Aaron Gillane and the ever dangerous Seamus Flannagan. Before Tony Kelly would cut the defecit to two.

At half time in extra time Limerick led by two points  1-24 to 0-25.

On the 3rd restart of the day David Fitzgerald put the minimum between the sides once again before Seamus Flannagan replied in the customary fashion at this juncture. Tony Kelly would split the posts soon afterwards in the 82nd minute of Hurling to restore the differnce.

However with four minutes to go in extra time Limerick turned the screw and showed every inch of fierce determination that secured the previous three Munster titles in a row. Scores from Aaron Gillane , Seamus Flannagan and Conor Boylan would give the Treaty the largest winning margin of the day at 4 points in front.

Scariff Man Mark Rodgers pointed from a 65 metre free in the final minute of regulation time in extra time to put one score between the sides and ensuring a pulsating finish. Such was the dramatic fast paced nature of the encounter in the space of just 35 seconds Will O’Donoghue restored the 4 point margin followed by Clare’s best goal chance of the day which flashed over the bar from Shane Meehan.

The Banner Men got one final opportunity to send the fixture to what would have been an innaugral Munster Final Penalty shoot out when an Eibhear Quillagan free dropped into the Limerick square however a stern Limerick Defense prevailed as Sean Finn collected the ball and clear his lines.

John Keenan finally blew the full time whistle confirming Limerick’s incredible achievement collecting four Munster Hurling crowns in a row and fittingly the innaugral Mick Mackey cup will begin life residing in the native county of its patron.

The Final score in FBD Semple Stadium Thurles Limerick 1-29 to Clare 0-29

However Brian Lohan’s side will have a major say in this championship yet and possibly the most encouraging sign for Clare today was new introductions to the Clare Senior Panel Shane Meehan, Mark Rodgers, Patrick Crotty and Cian Nolan all gaining provincial final experience.

*Source: Clare FM

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