Limerick minor footballers suffer Munster championship defeat to Clare:

By John Redington Limerick Leader Sport

“WE had a nervous restart, gave them two soft scores to raise their confidence and then two soft goals in the final quarter changed the game for them,” was manger Ger O’Connor’s take as Limerick minor footballers dropped out of the business end of the Munster championship when suffering a 3-6 to 0-9 defeat to Clare in their round robin fixture Ballyagran on Tuesday evening.

Although Limerick used the stiff breeze to dominate the opening half and change ends five points to the good, 0-6 to 0-1, Clare’s decision to move Player-of-the-Match Seán Fennell to the edge of the square turned the game on his head as he used his pace, power and deftness on the turn and his eye for the finish to unleash a barrage of match-winning scores.

Coming after a similar defeat to an equally-powerful Tipperary side in their opening round robin fixture a week ago, Limerick now face Waterford in their final outing next week in Lemybrien.

Win or lose, it won’t be the end of their season as there is a secondary All-Ireland competition to play for, but they’ll be hoping to turn their season around against opponents who were dramatically denied victory with a last gasp goal by ‘the Banner’ in the previous round.

The result may have been a disappointment, but Limerick made the most of what possession they won and played with a composure and a focus throughout.

Unfortunately, they were conceding inches and kilos in too many positions and struggled to win the one-on-ones once Clare worked out their optimum formation.

Limerick used the wind to gain early possession, but were held by tight Clare marking before Monaleen’s Shane Dolan gave them the lead off a free. However, fortune favoured them when, after conceding a turnover coming out of defence, Conor Burke collected possession from Darragh Townsend’s delivery and then saw his shot smothered by Limerick ‘keeper Stephen Kearney.

That escape was enough to concentrate Limerick minds and, as they patiently built the movements through the lines, Donal Dawson’s long range effort, Cian Costello on the run and another Dolan free put them four ahead before Burke, off a long delivery from midfield, opened the Banner account for 0-4 yo 0-1.
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But the momentum was still behind the home side and, despite missing a few chances, Costello, collecting off a quick free and then on the run after collecting the kick-out, added another two points just before the short whistle to lead his side 0-6 to 0-1 ahead at the break.

Clare lifted their performance level on the restart, pushed more oomph into the middle and, with the wind now shortening the Limerick kick-out, pressed forward in numbers to draw a foul for Burke to punish.

After Kearney blocked a Diarmuid McMahon shot on goal, Clare shaved the gap further through a Fennell pointed ’45’. The game was then turned on its head when a fast move from a clearance saw McMahon feeding David Cahill who collected on the burst and sent an equalising screamer to the back of the net.

Limerick kept their heads long enough to prevent the Banner following up and and the home side moved to regain the lead with Leon Curtin’s pointed free, added to by Charlie Casey’s point on the run.

At that point, however, the Clare backroom moved Fennell to the edge of the square, withdrew their corner forwards to leave the space in front of him. After his first effort on the turn screamed inches over the crossbar, Fennell repeated the high catch to turn and blast the ball to the roof of the net.

Limerick replied immediately as Dolan finished from distance to leave two points between the sides with seven minutes to go.

However, it was only a momentary reprieve as Fennell was pulled down after stretching to collect the next delivery and then blasted the resulting penalty past Kearney’s reach.

A few Limerick efforts at a response were soaked up by a fired-up defence and the Banner finished in style as Fennell laid off for Burke to point and then ended his momentous hour a monster 55-metre free.

SCORERS: CLARE: Seán Fennell 2-3 (1-0 penalty, 0-1 free, 0-1 ’45’), Conor Burke 0-3 (1 free), David Cahill 1-0. LIMERICK: Shane Dolan (2 frees), Cian Costelloe 0-3 each, Donal Dawson, Leon Curtin (free), Charlie Casey 0-1 each.

CLARE: Eoin Byrne (Saint Breckan’s); Aaron Killeen (Lissycasey), Conor Hill (Lissycasey), James Blunnie n(Kilrush Shamrocks); Colm Downes (Shannon Gaels), Diarmuid Boyle Saint Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), Stephen Murphy (Saint Joseph’s Miltown Malbay); Liam Clune (Saint Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), Darragh Townsend (Cooraclare); David Cahill (Clooney-Quinn), Seán Fennell (Kilrush Shamrocks), Daniel Brody (Ennistymon); Shane O’Connell (Cooraclare), Diarmuid McMahon (Lissycasey), Conor Burke (Kilmurry-Ibrickane). SUBS: Aidan Weaver (Lissycasey) for Liam Clune (28 minutes), Gabriel Fennell (Cooraclare) for Darragh Townsend (48 minutes), Caleb Walsh (Banner) for Colm Downes (54 minutes), Ben O’Halloran (Banner) for Daniel Brody (55 minutes), Leo Switzer (Kilmurry-Ibrickane) for David Cahill (59 minutes).

LIMERICK: Stephen Kearney (Saint Senans); Danny McCarthy (Father Caseys), Harry McDermott (Monaleen), Sean Hanley (Oola); Michael Mulcahy (Saint Senans), Donal Dawson (Ahane), Conor Ó Longaigh (Mungret-Saint Pauls) (Captain); Cian Costelloe (Cappagh-Rathkeale), Daniel O’Connell (Mungret-Saint Pauls); Shane Dolan (Monaleen), Rory Mulins (Mungret-Saint Pauls), Ben Ryan (Croom); Charlie Casey (Monaleen), Jake Slattery (Cappamore), Leon Curtin (Father Caseys). SUBS: Rian McNamara (Hospital-Herbertstown) for Jake Slattery (half-time), Michael Naughton (Croom) for Donal Dawson (36 minutes), Daniel Murphy (Ballylanders) for Ben Ryan (48 minutes), Evan O’Connor (Father Caseys) for Leon Curtin (55 minutes).

REFEREE: Ciarán Murphy (Cork).