Limerick minor hurlers bow out of the 2017 championship but can hold their heads high.
Two late points from full forward Gary Cooney was enough to send Clare in to a 19-17 lead with only 30 seconds on the clock.
It was devastation for John Mulqueen’s side who gave their all in atroctios condition but fell just short while for Clare, they move on to contest both the Minor and Senior Munster Championship finals for the first time in two decades.
It was a tight, nip and tuck affair throughout in what was an eagerly fought derby between the closest neighbours.
The sides were level on no less that ten occasions throughout the night. The fact that they were level at half time, full time and half time in extra time showed just close run an affair this was.
The 3697 souls that made the journey to Ennis would have be grateful for the covered strand and terrace opposite as the heavens opened up during the warm up making conditions difficult to say the least.
It should be said to that the Banner created a lot more chances than Limerick shooting 22 wides, some from very close range. Their half back line too was immense with Aidan McCarthy, Cian Minogue and Diarmuid Ryan acting as a barrier which Limerick could not penetrate.
The trio cleaned up an amount of ball to keep Limerick at bay. Limerick had a positive start with four Paul O’Brien points inside 12 minutes. Clare answered with Tiernan Agnew notching four points in the proceeding 8 minutes to level the game.
This run of scores came only after Clare had ran up 5 wides from some woefully wayward shooting. The sides were level on three more occasions with each having realistic goal chances in the opening half.
In the 24th minute, Breffni Horner’s driving run attracted Limerick’s last line before offloading to Paul Corry, who could only find the side-netting when he should have done better.
The last action of the half saw Dylan O’Shea head goal-ward bound, only for Lee Brack to produce a timely hook on his first effort, while goalkeeper Eamonn Foudy repelled the second to ensure a 0-7 to 0-7 half-time stalemate.
The teams remained deadlocked entering the final 10 minutes, when Clare made their push for glory as successive points from Agnew (2) and Keith White edged them three clear.
However, to the eternal credit of this Limerick team, they never gave up forcing extra-time after three unanswered points from Paul O’Brien (2) and Mikey O’Brien at 0-14 to 0-14.
With cramp and tiredness setting in, both teams were still prepared to fire everything into one last push as they traded points on three more occasions.
Someone would have to blink first, unfortunately it was Limerick. In a game of such fine margins and between two good sides, it was always going to be a tough call on the loser. Another day out for both these sides would have been much deserved.
Limerick’s energy reserves were simply gone as Gary Cooney slotted two late but great pints to ensure the victory.
Scorers for Clare: Tiernan Agnew 0-10 (7f, 1’65); Gary Cooney 0-4; Breffni Horner, Diarmuid Ryan, Keith White, Gearoid Cahill, Aidan McCarthy 0-1 each
Scorers for Limerick: Paul O’Brien 0-9 (4f, 1’65); David Woulfe 0-4; Ronan Connolly, Dan Minehan, Dylan O’Shea, Mikey O’Brien 0-1 each
1. Eamonn Foudy (Inagh-Kilnamona)
2. Sean Crowley (Kilmihil)
3. Ross Hayes (Crusheen)
4. Bradley Higgins (Kilmaley)
6. Cian Minogue (Bodyke)
5. Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
7. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona)
8. Keith White (Inagh-Kilnamona)
9. Lee Brack (Clarecastle)
11. Rian Considine (Cratloe)
10. Tiernan Agnew (Sixmilebridge)
12. Eoin Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)
14. Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills)
13. Paul Corry (Sixmilebridge)
15. Breffni Horner (Crusheen)
22. Conor Tierney (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for Corry (HT)
20. Colin Haugh (Ruan) for Considine (43)
23. Gearoid Cahill (Corofin) for Fitzgerald (48)
17. Cian McInerney (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Crowley (53, inj)
19. Eoghan Wallace (Clarecastle) for Ryan (58, inj)
21. Tom O’Rourke (Kilmaley) for Brack (60)
24. Killian McDermott (Clarecastle) for White (75, inj)
1. Daithi Heffernan (Mallow)
2. Conor Flahive (Mungret St Pauls)
3. Conor Nicholas (Monaleen)
4. Ciaran Barry (Ahane)
7. Kevin Bonar (Bruff)
6. Jerome Boylan (Na Piarsaigh)
5. Mikey O’Brien (Doon)
8. Dan Minehan (Ahane)
9. Michael O’Grady (Knockainey)
10. Paul O’Riordan (Bruff)
11. Paul O’Brien (Mungret St Pauls)
12. David Woulfe (Kilmallock)
13. Dylan O’Shea (Garryspillane)
17. Gearoid Barry (Kilmallock)
14. Ronan Connolly (Adare)
23. Brian O’Grady (Kilteely/Dromkeen) for O’Riordan (HT)
24. Ryan Tobin (Garryspillane) for Barry (38)
21. Rory Duff (Mungret St Pauls) for O’Grady (49)
9. O’Grady for M. O’Brien (71)
19. Ken Byrnes (Old Christians) for P. O’Brien (77)
10. O’Riordan for Duff (77, inj)
18. Damien Burke (Dromcollogher/Broadford) for O’Shea (82, inj)
Referee: Philip Kelly (Tipperary)