Limerick's Aaron Gillane strikes late to salvage a draw in Clare

A rip-roaring contest at Cusack Park saw the All-Ireland champions pushed to their limit

Clare 2-11 Limerick 1-14

While Donal Moloney might have been pushing it in claiming he hadn’t seen “so much passion in a championship match”, this was certainly a more physical and combative encounter than when his Clare charges saw off John Kiely’s Limerick by 11 points in the championship sun last June.

If anything the snow and the sleet made both sets of players all the more determined to throw everything into it. As if they decided, right, while we’re out here, we might as well as keep warm by thundering into that other crowd.

And so every ball and every ruck was ferociously contested. These sides didn’t just brave the elements – with all but two of Limerick’s starting outfield team opting to play in short sleeves, and only six Clare outfield starters availing of long-sleeve attire – they battled them. As Kiely pointed out afterwards, the quality of striking and handling was considerably affected by the cold. But such a lack of quality was more than compensated for by the sheer intensity.


Clare opened up brightly, Tony Kelly booming one over for the first score of the afternoon and then laying off for Shane Golden to get off the mark. But then a defensive mix-up between the otherwise impressive duo of full-back David McInerney and rookie Rory Hayes allowed Gearoid Hegarty to bear down on goal and fire past Donal Tuohy.

From there, Limerick led and controlled the half. Despite an early Aaron Gillane mishap, he was having a better day on the frees than Peter Duggan, who by the 45th minute mark had missed four. It was a stop-start affair, with Paud O’Dwyer choosing not to allow for the conditions, the home crowd particularly irritated when he blew for a Limerick free out as the lively Diarmuid Ryan went clear. Ryan and marker Paddy O’Loughlin had one of the most exciting duels of the afternoon, each bagging a point from play.

At the break Limerick were up 1-7 to 0-6 but it was obvious from Clare’s resumption that the message in their dressing room had been to be more direct. A minute in, Shane Golden drove through much like Hegarty had at the same end in the first half and then batted past Nickie Quaid, and a minute later Gary Cooney, pointed to level matters.

Cooney’s score though would be the only score from play by the Clare inside forward line; none of their three starters from that sector would raise a flag. And Limerick responded by reeling off the next four points.

As a collective, the Clare full-back line coughed up too many frees for Gillane to tip over.

But Clare would surge again, replying with the next four scores, with the last crucially being a goal; Peter Duggan atoning for his mixed day on the frees with an excellent finish. Clare were 2-10 to 1-11 ahead.

Limerick didn’t relent. Cian Lynch was immense throughout in midfield, and sub Seamus Dowling instantly made an impact, forcing Donal Tuohy into a fine save, and then drifting out to midfield and doubling on a ball which found Peter Casey in the corner, triggering the unsettled Clare full-back line to foul again for Gillane to point the equaliser.

CLARE: D Tuohy; R Hayes, D McInerney, J Browne; D Fitzgerald, C Cleary, P O'Connor; S Golden (1-1), C Galvin; P Duggan (1-6, 0-6 frees), T Kelly (0-1), D Ryan (0-2); I Galvin, N Deasy, P Collins.

Subs: G Cooney (0-1) for I Galvin (35), O O'Brien for McInerney (half-time, injured), C Malone for O'Connor (52), A McCarthy for Deasy (56), A Shanagher for Ryan (65).

LIMERICK: N Quaid; R Enlish, S Finn, T Condon; P O'Loughlin (0-1), D Hannon, D Morrissey; C Lynch, C Ryan (0-1, 1 '65); G Hegarty (1-0), K Hayes (0-1), T Morrissey; A Gillane (0-8, all frees), S Flanagan, P Casey (0-3).

Subs: W O'Meara for Finn (7, inj), D O'Donovan for Ryan (50), G Mulcahy for Flanagan (59), D Dempsey for Hegarty (62), S Dowling for T Morrissey (65).

Referee: P O'Dwyer (Carlow).