Munster SFC: Sexton the hero for Clare:

Munster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
Clare 1-16 Limerick 0-16

By Tom Clancy at TUS Gaelic Grounds

Clare booked a first Munster Senior football final berth since 2012, with a narrow, tense win over Limerick at the TUS Gaelic Grounds. The Banner will now face Kerry.

The Treaty will enter the Tailteann Cup for the first time, following relegation from Division Two. This contest was a thriller from start to finish, as Clare’s experience helped them over the line, while the goalkeeper Stephen Ryan also pulled off a vital late save to deny an energetic Limerick.

This game burst into life with a Clare goal, as Keelan Sexton powered his way through the home defence, and buried low under Donal O’Sullivan. They added to this third minute effort, with a point, as Jamie Malone fired over.

Limerick, still without a win in 2023, got their points through Cathal Downes and James Naughton (free). They’d defeated Clare in Ennis 12 months ago on penalties, and appeared well matched with their Shannonside neighbours.

Eoin Cleary and Dermot Coughlan scored points for a potent Clare attack, as they attempted to open up a considerable lead. But Mark Fitzgerald’s men were keen to stay in touch and their first run of three scores brought them to within a point – 1-3 to 0-5. The pick of those scores, from Cathal Downes was followed by Cillian Fahy and full-back, Seán O’Dea.

Clare did close the half stronger and moved onto 1-7 to 0-7 lead with a Sexton effort closing the half.

Colm Collins would replace Darragh Bohannon (injury) with Darren O’Neill on 40 minutes, as Limerick lost captain Iain Corbett at half-time. The sides traded scores in the third quarter but Limerick then kicked four on the trot.

Naughton, Barry Coleman and sub Hugh Bourke (from play and mark) put them in front for the first time. They were looking strong but Clare replied, a brace from Sexton arrested the slide.

Limerick crucially, had a goal chance, as Brian Donovan blasted for the net, only to see Stephen Ryan to pull off a stunning save – this in the 68th minute as Limerick trailed 1-13 to 0-15. Clare would pull clear entering stoppage Daniel Walsh, McMahon and Rouine asserted their position with a goal proving elusive for Limerick.

A magical victory for Clare before an attendance of near 3,500.
Scorers for Clare: Keelan Sexton 1-4; Eoin Cleary 0-4 (0-2 frees); Emmet McMahon 0-2; Jamie Malone, Dermot Coughlan, Cillian Brennan, Pearse Lillis, Daniel Walsh, Cillian Rouine 0-1 each.

*Scorers for Limerick: *James Naughton (0-3 frees), Hugh Bourke (0-1 mark) 0-3 each;Cathal Downes, Cillian Fahy, Barry Coleman 0-2 each; Sean O’Dea, Peter Nash, Brian Donovan, Donal O’Sullivan (free) 0-1 each.

Clare: Stephen Ryan; Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Cillian Rouine; Ciarán Russell, Jamie Malone, Daniel Walsh; Darragh Bohannon, Cathal O’Connor; Pearse Lillis, Emmet McMahon, Dermot Coughlan; Eoin Cleary, Keelan Sexton, Pádraic Collins.

Subs: Ronan Lanigan for Brennan (HT), Darren O’Neill for Bohannon (inj – 40), Gavin Cooney for Coughlan (45), Ikem Ugweru for Doherty (inj – 56), Mark McInerney for Collins (60).

Limerick: **Donal O’Sullivan; Mike Donovan, Seán O’Dea, Brian Fanning; Barry Coleman, Iain Corbett, Jim Liston; Cillian Fahy, Cathal Downes; Cian Sheehan, Colm McSweeney, Paul Maher; James Naughton, Brian Donovan, Peter Nash.

Subs: Hugh Bourke for Corbett (HT), Gordon Brown for Liston (51), Davy Lyons for Nash (63), T McCarthy for Maher (70).

Referee: **Liam Devanney (Mayo).