Allianz Hurling League Division 2 Final – Limerick 4-12 Clare 2-13

Limerick on the rise

Limerick 4-12 Clare 2-13

Allianz NHL Div 2 Final

By Christy O’Connor for the Irish Independent newspaper

Monday May 02 2011

Although it was still only April, Cusack Park rattled like a boiling tureen on Saturday night, the old ground full of noise and giddy summer-like chaos. The air was raw with pressure and tension and this frantic match seemed destined for extra-time until an excellent goal from Kevin Downes in the 67th minute provided the rapier thrust to finally break Clare’s spirit and resistance. Limerick added two late points to bound over the line. This match bobbed and weaved throughout, but Limerick’s greater experience and composure told when it mattered most. Clare were in control heading into the last quarter when they led by four points, but they failed to score for the remainder of the game as their opponents gradually hunted them down.

The home side dominated the possession stakes, winning the puckout battle 25-16, but Limerick were that bit sharper and more efficient with their use of the ball. Physically they were that bit stronger too, while they made the critical switch of the match when repositioning the excellent Tom Condon at full-back to police the rampaging Darach Honan. Given what was at stake here, this was a really good game, especially the second half. It was played at a hectic pace and both teams signalled their intent before the throw-in. Clare took their place on the outside behind the band but Limerick muscled in on that turf and both sides marched almost shoulder to shoulder during the parade. It was an apt metaphor for the combativeness of the match.

“It was a cauldron out there,” said Limerick’s Seamus Hickey. “They really came at us but the prize today was huge and I think that told in the frantic nature of the game. “Down the finishing stretch we were staring down the barrel of the gun, but you got that itch that usually only comes in a championship game — all or nothing. We basically emptied the tank, threw the kitchen sink at it and asserted ourselves with force.”

The Banner were devastated after losing successive Division 2 finals, but this young team still isn’t battle-hardened enough to be able to see out games like this. They showed huge character and fight but their trend of fading out of big matches over the last 12 months is something they need to arrest. And the concession of four goals ultimately finished them. “That was the most disappointing part, but I’m very proud of the lads,” said manager Ger O’Loughlin. “They tried awful hard. For a long time we took the game to Limerick and looked the better team, but we just needed to be more clinical. Unfortunately, it’s another year in Division 2, which we could have done without.” Despite their greater experience, Limerick’s key late scores were provided by Downes, who is only 19, and Declan Hannon, who played with Ardscoil Ris in last month’s All-Ireland Colleges final. The pair contributed a combined 2-3 over the 70 minutes.

“What really drives this team is team ethic,” said Limerick captain Gavin O’Mahoney. “Everyone buys into that, the young fellas especially. When the chips were down, they popped up with the scores.” Although Clare were on top in the first half, they hit eight wides to Limerick’s two, but the visitors blew the game open in a five-minute spell just before the interval when hitting an unanswered 1-3 to take a four-point half-time lead. When he moved to centre-back, the excellent Pat Donnellan locked down the space Limerick had thrived in during the first half, but the outstanding John Conlon also began to exert his authority as the game progressed.

He hit three fine points from play in 11 minutes before playing the pass through for Conor McGrath’s goal in the 50th minute. A Honan point a minute later had Clare ahead by 2-12 to 2-8, but the deficit was down to one in the 54th minute when Hannon lashed the ball to the net. Paul Browne had the sides level in the 66th minute before Downes decided the match. A year after Limerick’s lost season, Donal O’Grady has steered the Treaty men back on the right road. That road now leads to a Munster semi-final against Waterford in June. “Coming into this, I never mentioned Division 2 or Division 1,” said O’Grady. “But everyone was aware of the Munster championship in the background. The challenge ahead is huge. It’s like to trying to climb Mount Everest when you’ve been practising on Carrauntoohil.” With Division 1 status secured though, that peak doesn’t seem as high now.

Man of the Match: John Conlon (Clare)

Scorers — Limerick: K Downes 1-2, D Hannon, S Tobin 1-1 each, R McCarthy 0-4 (3f), P Browne 0-2, D O’Grady, N Moran, 0-1 each, (D Tuohy 1-0 og). Clare: J Conlon 0-4, D Honan 1-1, C McGrath 1-0, N O’Connell 0-3, (2 ’65’), C Ryan (2f), F Lynch 0-2, each, L Markham 0-1.

Limerick — N Quaid 8; D Reale 7, G O’Mahoney 7, T Condon 9; W McNamara 7, S Hickey 8, D Breen 6; D O’Grady 7, P Browne 8; D Hannon 7, R McCarthy 7, J Ryan 6; S Tobin 7, K Downes 8, G Mulcahy 6. Subs: D Maloney 6 for Breen (56), N Moran 6 for S Tobin (46), P Tobin 6 for McCarthy (56).

Clare — D Tuohy 6; P Vaughan 7, C Cooney 6, D O’Donovan 8; P Donnellan 9, C Dillon 6, P O’Connor 8; N O’Connell 6, L Markham 7; F Lynch 8, J Conlon 9, J Clancy 6; C Ryan 6, D McMahon 6, C McGrath 6. Subs: D Honan 8 for McMahon (18), C Morey 6 for Ryan (58).

Ref — J McGrath (Westmeath)


Limerick claim Allianz League Division 2 title

From the web site

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Clare 2-13 Limerick 4-12

Limerick were crowned Allianz Hurling League Division 2 champions after a 4-12 to 2-13 defeat of Clare in a thrilling game at a packed Cusack Park, Ennis on Saturday night. More importantly, though, Donal O’Grady’s side have been promoted to the top tier of the Allianz Hurling League in 2012, with Kevin Downes proving their match winner, netting an exceptional solo goal in the 66th minute to help the Treaty men over the line. Limerick finished the game by hitting 1-4 without reply after they appeared to be in big trouble when Darach Honan and Conor McGrath had scored second half goals for the Banner County. But Downes brought his tally to 1-2 for the night when he hit a crucial goal with just four minutes left, his powerful run along the endline matched by a brilliant finish from a tight angle.

Limerick led by 2-6 to 0-8 at the break after a similarly impressive finish to the half, when they scored 1-3 in a row in the closing stages, including a lucky goal that Seamus Hickey will claim but which Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy should have saved. There was heartache for Clare in the Division 2 final for the second year in a row, after Ger O’Loughlin’s men were beaten by Wexford in the 2010 decider. Clare were two points up thanks to early scores from play from Liam Markham and Nicky O’Connell. However, Limerick responded with a goal from their first attack, after six minutes, Seán Tobin flicking the ball to the net after Richie McCarthy’s brilliant run.

Clare, though, appeared to be in control in an exciting opening quarter which was played at Championship pace. Colin Ryan and Nicky O’Connell soon put them back in the lead with well-taken points. Limerick were struggling to make any inroads in attack and while the pace of the game did slow down, the Banner men were 0-8 to 1-3 ahead by the 31st minute and looked set to take a comfortable lead into the half-time break. But the first half was turned on its head two minutes before the break, when Hickey’s long-range effort somehow ended up in the Clare net. His miss-hit shot dropped well short, but Tobin appeared to distract Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy and the ball slipped through his grasp and dribbled over the line.

Limerick then hit three more points before the break, Downes, McCarthy and Paul Browne all hitting the target to give Donal O’Grady’s side a 2-6 to 0-8 lead at half-time. If the first half had ended dramatically, the start of the second half was its equal. Honan, the leggy full forward who had been brought on as a first half sub, gathered possession and cut through the Limerick defence before unleashing a rocket to the back of the net. The goal came less than 40 seconds after the restart and two minutes later the home side were level when John Conlon fired his first score of the game. Conlon’s influence on the game grew as the half wore on and his third of the evening had Clare a point up, 1-11 to 2-7, with 20 minutes left.

And then the Banner appeared to have made the winning break for the line when Conor McGrath pounced on a low ball into the full-forward line, gathered possession cleverly and cracked an unstoppable shot past Nicky Quaid. When Honan tacked on a point, Limerick were four points down and in real trouble. But Limerick’s comeback began in earnest in the 54th minute with Declan Hannon’s goal and although Conlon’s fourth score nudged Clare two points clear again, it was all Limerick in the last 15 minutes. Paul Browne levelled the game with a fine score, before Downes’ stunning goal and two more points won the game for the Treaty men, Niall Moran sending over the final score of the game for a 4-12 to 2-13 win.

Limerick Scorers: S Tobin 1-1, R McCarthy 0-4 (0-3f), K Downes 1-2, P Browne 0-2, S Hickey 1-0, D Hannon 1-1, D O’Grady 0-1, N Moran 0-1.

Clare Scorers: L Markham 0-1, N O’Connell 0-3 (0-2f), C Ryan 0-2 (0-2f), F Lynch 0-2, D Honan 1-1, J Conlon 0-4, C McGrath 1-0