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Treaty hold off Banner in Munster final classic

Shane Stapleton reflects on the Munster senior hurling final clash of Limerick v Clare at the Gaelic Grounds

Shane Stapleton reflects on the Munster SHC final clash of Limerick v Clare at the Gaelic Grounds.

Limerick Clare

Limerick claimed a first Munster five-in-a-row since Cork in 1986 after a thrilling clash at the Gaelic Grounds.

Clare were furious to not get a free at the death when Adam Hogan carried the ball into traffic, but referee Liam Gordon blew only for the final whistle.

Just beforehand, Tony Kelly had been barged by Peter Casey, which certainly should have been blown for.

When all was said and done, ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries rang out around the stadium as the green machine roared once more.

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John Kiely’s men have faced some strong challenges this year and the gap has been cut by their opponents, but still they find a way.

Sean Finn is gone for the season, Cian Lynch obviously isn’t right, Limerick had to do without Declan Hannon, Mike Casey and Tom Morrissey as the game wore on, and yet they drove on.

Courage, desire, hunger, composure, and an ability to come back for more — the qualities of this Limerick set-up cannot be overstated.

Aaron Gillane once more led the charge for his side, and Brian Lohan’s indecision on the line was costly.

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Cian Nolan is a fine defender but being thrown into the lion’s den and being left there when things weren’t going well was strange. Lohan was perhaps the only man in the Limerick or watching on TV who could understand the delay in making a change.

The Banner’s scoring efficiency also killed them. Whereas Limerick converted 24 of 39 chances with the likes of Cathal O’Neill and Adam English (whose uncle passed away yesterday) doing the business when coming on, it was a shocking return of 23 scores from 52 attempts that caught up with Clare.

Can they recover in the back door this year? We will soon find out.

Gillane was the the focus of Limerick’s attacking approach in the first half, with the absence of Conor Cleary complicating matters.

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Nolan was drafted in and given the unenviable job, and in many ways the first half was a baptism of fire.

Not so much because of how the number 17 was taking to the GIllane task, but the quality of ball being fed into the Patrickswell star.

Gillane’s feet and wrists make him a nightmare for any marker, and it felt as though Nolan was hanging on by his fingernails given the space and deliveries he was facing.

At the other end of the field, The Banner were finding it difficult to isolate Peter Duggan and Mark Rodgers close to goal, as Limerick’s defence allowed less space.

As a result, it was 50-50 balls in that allowed the duo to win frees and make some sort of positive impact. At times, Diarmaid Ryan and David McInerney have been guilty of taking on long-range shots when they could deliver it instead, and again it was the case here.

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Lohan’s side struggled to get their half-forward line into the game and, given the traffic in the middle sector, you’d hardly have had room to turn a sweet in your mouth.

Tony Kelly fashioned two scores for himself in that period, Aidan McCarthy was reduced to a couple of frees and little more, David Fitzgerald had little impact, while Shane O’Donnell had some nice moments.

Ryan Taylor has hurt Limerick in recent seasons and again ran at the green machine, picking up a point and always looking to see if there were goalscoring openings.

Gillane, the industrious Tom Morrissey, Darragh O’Donovan, Geaoroid Hegarty and Kyle Hayes popped over scores but too few Treaty men were making the sort of impact Gillane was.

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While Clare’s long-range shooting let them down at times, it was a shot from 90 yards by Kelly that led to the only goal before the interval.

It came down off the post and Rodgers, who heretofore had very little ball to work off, reacted like a ninja to gather and spin before shooting to the net.

It took a nick off of Dan Morrissey’s hurley, which may well have been crucial to Nickie Quaid being beaten.

Then came a crazy couple of minutes: Taylor hit a desperate wide when he might have forced a goal opening, a long ball scrambled around the Clare area which Gillane almost fashioned into a goal, then Rodgers drew a save from Quaid after great work from Taylor, before Hegarty pinned back his ears and looked to mow down the Banner backline.

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Ryan fouled the St Patrick’s man, who was then yellow-carded for upending Adam Hogan, though Hegarty seemed to be dunted on the head by Nolan’s hip just before that.

Clare might well have been further ahead given the 25 chances they had created compared with 18 for Limerick, yet a three-point buffer was a great position considering several key forwards had yet to impact the game.

The weight of history sat on the shoulders of both sets of players at half time.

Twenty five years since Clare had lifted this cup, while Limerick aimed to claim a first Munster five-in-a-row since Cork in 1986.

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Limerick were quick out of the blocks to hit three of the first four and, after trading scores, the goal finally came for the hosts.

Yet another brilliant ball was sent in for Gillane, who rounded Nolan and fired to the net.

While the Patrickswell man did the right thing in bouncing the strike off the ground, it also seemed to take a strange bounce which gave Eibhear Quilligan no chance.

Gillane had another chance saved after a Nolan slip, Rodgers had a tame pull gathered by Quaid, and then Taylor miscontrolled a sympathetic handpass by Duggan when bearing down on goal.

They didn’t coast home but that extra bit of composure was key for Limerick.

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This despite Hannon, Mike Casey and Tom Morrissey — one can only assume there was an injury — going off, and youngsters being thrown into the fray.

Fitzgerald blazed a half goal chance from a narrow angle over the bar to bring it back to 1-19 to 1-16, breaking a run of eight missed chances for the Banner.

They left it behind them, no question about that, despite a brilliant performance.

Kiely has now won silverware in 12 of 12 finals, and he said afterwards that it was “special” and “different”.

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Limerick’s pedigree means they continue to find a way under the greatest duress.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ger

    June 11, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    I think clare are learning more and more each day against limerick. They should have won today.hopfully they meet again.

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