Second half power surge propels Limerick to historic sixth Munster title in a row:

By Colm Kinsella Limerick Leader Sport

LIMERICK’S indomitable hurlers made history at FBD Semple Stadium this Sunday when surging past Clare 1-26 to 1-20 to secure an unprecedented six Munster senior hurling titles in a row.

A powerful second half display from the Shannonsiders, including a crucial goal from Gearoid Hegarty, helped the All-Ireland champions, who had been level with their opponents at half-time, retain the Mick Mackey Cup in some style.

In so doing Limerick become the first side ever to win six provincial hurling titles on the bounce, a huge achievement for the players and backroom team under manager John Kiely.

This win also cements Limerick’s place as favourites to complete a five-in-a-row of All-Ireland final wins later this summer.

Twenty six-time Munster champions Limerick will now set their sights on an All-Ireland semi-final in four weeks’ time on Sunday, July 7.

This was the third year in a row that Limerick had defeated Clare in a Munster senior hurling final.

On a dramatic afternoon in Thurles, the throw-in time for the decider was delayed 30 minutes from the scheduled start time of 4pm due to a power outage.

In a statement , Munster GAA said that “due to a power outage at Semple Stadium shortly before throw in for today’s Munster Senior Hurling Final, and the consequent facilities failure, a decision was taken to postpone the game by 30 minutes while a crew worked to resolve the faults.
“The decision to postpone was taken by event management and the Gardai on the grounds of public safety and public health.
“Public transport services will be delayed accordingly to accommodate supporters after the game.
We apologise to patrons and to both teams for this delay.”
When he game did eventually begin, there were two changes to Clare’s starting line-up from the selected team as the speculation over Tony Kelly all week ended with the Ballyea clubman replacing David Reidy in the Banner side’s line-up.

Elsewhere, Conor Leen, of Corofin, came in for Rory Hayes in defence.

Perhaps given how much was at stake for both sides the opening to this latest Mid-West derby final was forgettable. The sides shared four wides in as many minutes, before Aaron Gillane set David Reidy up for the opening score.

And within a blink of an eye Clare drew level through an Aidan McCarthy free. At the other end of the pitch, Shane O’Brien was denied a goal chance, before David Fitzgerald flashed over the lead score for Clare, 0-2 to 0-1.

Champions Limerick were level on seven minutes when Diarmuid Byrnes landed one of his trademark long-range frees.

The sides were level twice more in the opening 11 minutes before Clare moved 0-6 to 0-4 ahead after quarter of an hour.

However, Limerick came roaring back and four points without reply from Declan Hannon, Diarmuid Byrnes, Aaron Gillane (free) and Kyle Hayes, following a powerful surge upfield, to race into an 0-8 to 0-6 lead.

Limerick did survive a real scare in the 17th minute as Mark Rogers set up Aidan McCarthy with a goal chance. However, Limerick netminder Nickie Quaid produced a smart save to dent the Inagh-Kilnamona attacker.

Leading by a point, 0-10 to 0-9, after 26 minutes, Limerick looked to take a grip on the contest. Points from a Byrnes free, Reidy, his second from play, and Shane O’Brien, had John Kiely’s charges four points to the good, 0-13 to 0-9.

Clare were struggling to gain a foothold in the game, their tally of six first half wides was double Limerick’s total. However, the complexion of the contest changed in a few minutes leading up to half-time.

Midfielder David Fitzgerald struck a long range point, before Clare were awarded a long range free during the two minutes of added time. Tony Kelly, who struck three first half points, landed the free in front of the goalmouth. Peter Duggan was denied initially by another smart save from Quaid, before he seized on the rebound, before turning smartly and finishing the sliotar to the net.

All of a sudden Clare were level at half-time, 1-10 to 0-13.

Limerick opened the second half in tenacious fashion, regaining their grip on the decider. A run of four four unanswered points in as many minutes from Gullane (free), O’Brien, Tom Morrissey and the pick of the bunch from Cathal O’Neill suddenly had the All-Ireland champions 0-17 to 1-10 to the good.

Clare did rally with two points from Aian McCarthy, free, and play, before the Banner side was hit with a real body blow.

Kyle Hayes gained possession on his own half-back line in the 45th minute before firing the ball upfield. The sliotar broke inside to Gearoid Hegarty who produced a sweetly struck ground shot which resulted in the ball nestling in the back of the Clare net.

The score was now, Limerick 1-18, Clare 1-12.

The sides shared four points evenly over the next 10 minutes to leave six in it, 1-20 to 1-14, with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Clare need a beak and they came within a whisker of getting it in the 58th minute. From a turnover of possession deep inside the Limerick half, Tony Kelly fed Mark Rogers, but the Scariff clubman’s effort for goal collided with the butt of an upright before being cleared.

Points from Byrnes and substitute Adam English then had Limerick 1-22 to 1-16 in front before Clare gave themselves hope with two quickfire points, including one from substitute Ian Galvin.

The hope was extinguished as Hayes and Hegarty landed two monster points for Limerick to stretch their lead out to six points, 1-24 to 1-18.

Limerick would simply not be denied as John Kiely’s men made history much to the delight of the thousands of their supporters who made their way to witness it.

SCORERS: Limerick: Aaron Gillane (0-4 frees), Diarmaid Byrnes (0-3 frees), 0-5 each, Gearoid Hegarty 1-2, Tom Morrissey 0-4 (0-1 free), Shane O’Brien, David Reidy, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes (0-2) each, Cathal O’Neill, Alan English (0-1) each.

Clare: Aidan McCarthy 0-8 (0-6 frees), David Fitzgerald 0-4, Peter Duggan 1-1, Tony Kelly 0-3, Mark Rogers (0-2, frees), Shane O’Donnell, Ian Galvin (0-1) each.

LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid (Effin); Mike Casey (Na Piarsaigh), Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Barry Nash (South Liberties); Diarmaid Byrnes (Parickswell), Declan Hannon (Adare), Kyle Hayes (Kildimo-Pallaskenry); Will O’Donoghue (Na Piarsaigh), Cathal O’Neill (Crecora-Manister); Gearóid Hegarty (St Patrick’s), David Reidy (Dromin-Athlacca), Tom Morrissey (Ahane); Aaron Gillane (Patrickswell), Shane O’Brien (Kilmallock), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell). SUBS: Adam English (Doon) for Lynch (52 mins), Conor Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for O’Neill (62 mins), Donnacha O’Dalaigh (Monaleen) for Gillane (67mins), Aidan O’Connor (Ballybrown) for Reidy (68 mins), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) for Tom Morrissey (72 mins)

CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan; Adam Hogan, Conor Cleary, Conor Leen; Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, David McInerney; David Fitzgerald, Darragh Lohan; Cathal Malone, Mark Rodgers, Peter Duggan; Aidan McCarthy, Shane O’Donnell, Tony Kelly. SUBS: David Reidy for Darragh Lohan (61 mins), Ian Galvin for McCarthy (63 mins), Rory Hayes for Cleary (65 mins).

REFEREE: Colm Lyons (Cork)