Injury time heartbreak as Limerick U20 hurlers suffer championship defeat to Clare:

By Tom Clancy Limerick Leader Sport

LIMERICK suffered late heartache in their Munster U20 Hurling Championship opener against Clare, conceding the final three points to lose out in Sixmilebridge this Friday evening – 2-17 to 2-15.

In this round-robin format, the Treaty led at half-time, and despite playing with a strong breeze in the second-half, they succumbed to the hosts.

Clare called on seven of the 2023 Minor All-Ireland winning side, including talisman, Michael Collins. As in previous years, this competition will see each of the five sides meeting in a group phase, with the top team advancing to the final, while second face third in a semi-final.

Evan Loftus, who switched from Minor to U20 boss in the off-season, selected four from the Minor side who lost out Clare in the Munster Minor semi-final last May – Matthew Fitzgerald, Robert O’Farrell, Dara Ferland and Hugh Flanagan. The Ballybrown man was able to call on senior panelists Shane O’Brien and Darragh Langan for this clash, though O’Brien retired early in the second half with an apparent injury.

After getting the first point of the game through Ferland, Limerick found themselves four behind inside six minutes. An emphatic finish from Michael Collins added a goal to earlier points from Conor Whelan and Shane Woods.

It was a case of stay in touch for Limerick, and that they did as Oisin O’Farrell and Con Hayes picked off points. Indeed it was a 19th minute goal that began to turn the tide towards Limerick, and when Robert O’Farrell intercepted a loose Banner pass, he raced clear before burying to the net for a 2-8 to 1-9 half-time lead.

However, four of the first six points went to Clare who seized control in the second half, with Davy Fitzgerald’s long range effort the pick of Limerick’s second half scores. Seven second half wides brought Limerick’s total to 10 while Clare would end with 11 on what was a blustery evening.

It appeared that those in green had withstood the Clare surged and points from sub Donal Coughlan, Oisin O’Farrell (free) and a third from midfielder Con Hayes put them in front entering the final five minutes.
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A 56th minute penalty from Whelan surprisingly went wide, but there was controversy on 58 minutes, as Seán Rynne put over a point that one umpire waved wide. With Ciaran O’Regan punishing Limerick late on with a plethora of frees, Terence Fahy’s side profited.

Whelan held his nerve with a brace in stoppage time to collect a precious two points.

The Treaty host Tipperary at TUS Gaelic Grounds next Friday (7pm), with the Premier idle in round one. Cork had too much for Waterford, 0-21 to 1-10, in Friday’s other clash in this championship.

Scorers for Clare: Conor Whelan 0-7 (0-7 frees); Michael Collins 2-1; Seán Rynne 0-3; Niall O’Farrell 0-2; Shane Woods, Eoghan Gunning, Ronan Kilroy, Jack O’Neill 0-1 each. Scorers for Limerick: Oisin O’Farrell 1-7 (0-6 frees); Robert O’Farrell 1-1; Con Hayes 0-3; Dara Ferland, David Fitzgerald, Fintan Fitzgerald, Donal Coughlan 0-1 each.
CLARE: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge); John Cahill (Clooney-Quin), Tony Leyden (Tulla), Ronan Keane (Killanena); Shane Woods (Inagh-Kilnamona), James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Jamie Moylan (Cratloe); Ronan O’Connor (Feakle), Eoghan Gunning (Broadford); Conor Whelan (Whitegate), Sean Rynn (Inagh-Kilnamona), Ronan Kilroy (Banner); Niall O’Farrell (Broadford), Jack O’Neill (Clooney-Quin), Michael Collins (Clonlara). Subs: James Organ (Corofin) for Gunning (54mins); Evan Maxted (Clooney-Quin) for O’Connor (59mins).

LIMERICK: Pierce Connery (Kilmallock); Mikey Fitzgibbon (Cappamore), Darragh Langan (Monaleen), Joseph Fitzgerald (Monaleen); David Fitzgerald (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Matthew Fitzgerald (Monaleen), Cian Scully (Dromin-Athlacca); Wayne Kearns (Na Piarsaigh), Con Hayes (Newcastle West); Robert O’Farrell (Kildimo-Pallaskenry), Fintan Fitzgerald (Mungret St Pauls); Dara Ferland (Monaleen); Hugh Flanagan (Garryspillane), Shane O’Brien (Kilmallock), Oisín O’Farrell (Askeaton Kilcornan Desmonds). Subs: Donal Coughlan (Doon) for O’Brien (43mins); Mark O’Riordan (Castletown-Ballyagran) for Flanagan (54mins).

REFEREE: Ciaran O’Regan (Cork)