Munster Football Final place on offer as Limerick welcome Clare

With their fate already decided, Clare were imperious in seeing off Limerick in their most recent encounter, a 2-18 to 0-9 result to conclude the league.

Limerick and Clare will do battle this Saturday in the Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final with so much more than bragging rights on offer.

The winner will advance to the Munster Final on May 5 and also book their place in the All-Ireland series of the championship. The loser will see those hopes extinguished with a first foray into the Tailteann Cup on the horizon.

With both losing their right to enter the All-Ireland series directly after suffering relegation to the third tier of the league, the clash is shaping up to be a mouthwatering one between the rivals.

It is a repeat of last year’s Munster quarter-final where there was nothing to separate the teams after extra-time. Limerick struck at the death to send the game to additional time while it was the Banner that found the late equaliser to ensure a first ever penalty shoot out in the championship.

Iain Corbett, Robbie Bourke, Brian Donovan and James Naughton all converted their spot kicks with Clare erring on a pair to give Limerick the Cusack Park victory.

Indeed it was a first win over the Banner in the championship since 2009, ending Clare’s dominance between the pair. Limerick went on to beat Tipperary in the Munster semi-final before losing out to Kerry and Cork in successive weeks to see their championship campaign come to an end.

Clare regrouped to reach the last eight of the All-Ireland championship, shocking Roscommon in the qualifiers. They were comprehensively beaten by Derry in the quarters.

And the Ulster men were on hand to introduce Limerick to the rigors of Division 2 football in the first round of this year’s League, inflicting a 0-16 to 0-4 defeat on the Shannonsiders.

On the same day Clare were defeated by the same opponents, Limerick lost out to Kildare which signaled relegation for the Munster duo with a round to spare.

19 March 2023; Limerick players, from left, Gordon Brown, Brian Fanning and Sean O’Dea after the Allianz Football League Division 2 match between Limerick and Kildare at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

With their fate already decided, Clare were imperious in seeing off Limerick in their most recent encounter, a 2-18 to 0-9 result to conclude the league.

Still, that will count for little this weekend with Limerick also in the midst of a managerial shift prior to the Clare encounter. Mark Fitzgerald replaced Ray Dempsey after the round five draw with Meath with the Kerry native upbeat about their preparations for Sunday.

“It’s been okay, the players have been very good to be fair. Some of the management team has stayed on so there’s a good bit of continuity there. It’s been so busy we didn’t really have time to think about it, only trying to get results that didn’t go our way. But we seem to be in a good place now, looking forward to the championship and whatever that brings.”

Limerick are also set to be boosted by the return of Iain Corbett who missed the final pair of games. The Newcastle West native is joint-captain of the side alongside Donal O’Sullivan with both key as the longest-serving members of the panel. Cathal Downes and Barry Coleman were also mainstays of the side during the league in their maiden campaigns as Fitzgerald has to do without the services of Josh Ryan who suffered a season-ending injury last October.

Yet, Limerick will be a similar side to the one who got the better of the Banner in Ennis twelve months ago. The momentum from reaching the league final last year will be replaced with that of relegation this time around but this Limerick side have often been at their best with their backs to the wall.

Against a Clare side who overcame Cork in the Munster quarter-final, they will need to be at their best if they are to upset the odds. Plenty of the youthful Banner outfit will be familiar to the Limerick contingent with Emmett McMahon the captain of the UL side that reached the Sigerson Cup final. He kicked a pair in the 0-14 to 0-13 win over Cork and certainly need watching, as will the returning Keelan Sexton who helped himself to 0-4 from play. Eoin Cleary matched that tally while they had seven scorers from play overall in the Rebel victory.

But, while Clare are in the semi finals on merit, Limerick will have been happy to avoid a trip to Pairc Ui Chaoimh with home advantage sure to count for something on Sunday.

Whether is will be enough or not is another question but it would be foolish to rule out this Limerick side causing an upset like they did against Tipp in 2019.

Limerick face Clare in the Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final on Saturday April 22 at 6.30pm in the TUS Gaelic Grounds.

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