Five in a row for Limerick, and a guaranteed spot in the All-Ireland semi-final for the sixth successive year.
Limerick won their fifth successive Mick Mackey cup on Sunday, as they defeated Clare by the finest of margins in the TUS Gaelic Grounds. The Shannonsiders were worthy winners on the day, but both sets of fans probably would have seen extra time as a fair scenario, and it could have been on the cards had Clare been awarded a free at the death when Tony Kelly appeared to be challenged unfairly by Peter Casey.
Nonetheless, it was another win for Kiely’s men who continued their perfect record in finals to make it 12 wins on the bounce and five Munster titles in a row.
The game had a tentative opening, with both sides not giving anything up easy, while Tom Morrissey opened the scoring from wide in the second minute. The Ahane man has been one of Limerick’s best players so far this year, and he popped up with a number of crucial scores on the day. Clare managed to take control of the early stages of the game, and half-back Diarmuid Ryan fired over a remarkable score from the sideline on the fifteen minute mark, giving his side a three point advantage.
Aaron Gillane was a constant threat in the opening half hour, as the Patrickswell man toyed with the Clare defence, going on to score 1-11, picking up the Man of the Match award. There was a lot of space inside for Gillane to work with, and the quality of ball he was receiving from out the field was magnificent.
Regardless of Gillane’s threat, the Banner were still in the game, and with the score level at 0-10 each, Mark Rodgers reacted quickest to a ball coming off the post to fire past Nickie Quaid. The goal meant Limerick headed into the interval three points adrift of their rivals.
Less than ten minutes into the second half, Brian Lohan’s side felt the full power of Gillane, as the Limerick man found the back of the net with a fine strike off his left. This is where the tide really turned, John Kiely’s side now held a one point lead, and would go on to extend it.
Morrissey and Gillane would be joined by substitutes Adam English and Cathal O’Neill in popping up with crucial scores to grow the Treaty lead. As regulation time came to a close, Kiely’s men lead by a point, and David Reidy extended the lead to two with a fine strike from a tight angle.
Kelly pointed with seconds to play, to leave his Banner side a point adrift, and this is where the controversy unfolded. With added time all but up, the Ballyea man had the ball in a scoring position, only to seemingly be fouled by Limerick’s Peter Casey. Referee Liam Gordon chose not to award a free, to the dismay of the Clare faithful, and instead opted to blow the final whistle, sending the Limerick fans wild.
Five in a row for Limerick, and a guaranteed spot in the All-Ireland semi-final. Clare, on the other hand, will have to pick themselves up to go again in less than two weeks.
Few would bet against the sides meeting again in the All-Ireland final next month.
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