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Clare get final shot as power wins out

By Declan Bogue

An all-Munster hurling final, in early September is in store as Clare's strong-arm performance was enough to get them into the decider against Cork.

Before the game, Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald looked wired as he granted Ger Canning an interview, in which he gave a Loughnane-esque declaration of intent.

"John Allen can say what he wants ... No excuses ... " Are you going to win? "Yes."

Right enough, Clare hurling has had some characters taking their senior team down through the years.

They also have some of the finest hurlers in the game and while the narrative is often steered by the manager, the quality of their hurling here was more than sufficient. They were already panicking Limerick into bloopers in the opening quarter when a searching ball landed down on top of Paudge Collins.

The ball broke off his hand, Darach Honan chased it in and while he, along with Nickey Quaid and Tom Condon ended up in a heap in the goalmouth, the ball squirted into the net.

Seamus Hickey injured himself chasing down a clearance and his replacement Conor Allis scored with his first touch, but Limerick's spirit was eroded by their jitters.

They began nervously, got worse, and declined sharply after that. That's being fair to them. By the 10th minute they had five wides, Declan Hannon having a nightmare first half with four wides alone.

Just after the half hour, John Allen sent for Shane Dowling to replace Seanie Tobin and the logical move would have been to give him the free-taking duties. However, Hannon was still striking them wide just before the interval.

Dowling's first touch was to be a sideline cut and, inexplicably, he caught nothing but fresh air twice, before batting it back to a team mate.

John Allen and his players remained on the sideline for eight minutes of the half-time break to allow them to gather themselves. Like Dublin last weekend, the gap of five weeks since their provincial success was hurting them.

With a little bit of a reshuffle, Paul Brown going back to wing back, they began the third quarter with three Dowling frees, bringing the margin as close as four points.

From there, Clare simply monstered Limerick on their own puckout, in the breaks and on the scoreboard. They had Collins inside causing hassle but what hurt the most was the way the Limerick full back line kept committing fouls that were punished by Colin Ryan.

With 15 minutes left and the Banner eight points up, Johnny Ryan peeped for a Limerick free-in, prompting Davy Fitzgerald to stomp onto the field and deliver a dressing-down.

Limerick needed something and when a 21-yard free arrived for Dowling, he got his chance and drove hard but Patrick Kelly got enough stick on it to deflect it out, with the help of the rest of the men on the line.

In the end, Clare even indulged themselves with the odd flick and trick thrown in. It will be a novel final indeed.

Meanwhile, following an inconsistency in the generation of a graphic by Hawkeye during the minor semi-final, the decision was taken to suspend use of the system for the senior game.

A full review of the technology commenced last night and its finding will be examined by the GAA today.

CLARE: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, D McInerney, C Dillon; B Bugler, P Donnellan (0-1), P O'Connor (0-1); C Galvin (0-1), Conor Ryan; J Conlon, T Kelly (0-4), Colin Ryan (0-11, 9f); P Collins (0-3) D Honan (1-0), C McGrath

Substitutes: F Lynch for Conlon (43m), C McInerney (0-1) for Honan (63m), N O'Connell for Conor Ryan (67m), S O'Donnell for McGrath (71m)

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; P O'Brien, W McNamara, G O'Mahony (0-2); P Browne (0-2), D O'Grady; D Breen (0-1), J Ryan (0-1), S Hickey; G Mulcahy (0-1), D Hannon (0-2, 2f), S Tobin

Subs: C Allis (0-1) for Hickey (15m), S Dowling (0-6, 5f, 1x 65) for Tobin (31m), T Ryan (0-1) for Allis (56m) N Moran for Hannon (51m), K Downes (0-1) for Breen (63m)

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary)

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