Clare reached their first Munster final in nine years with a four-point victory over Limerick in Thurles.
The Banner will be content to have gotten over the line given their poor form in the province recently – but how good were they? And what about Limerick? Is it back to the drawing board for John Kiely and his selectors – or are there promising signs for the Treaty County as they prepare for the qualifiers?
Here are five talking points as Clare await the winners of the other semi-final between Cork and Waterford.
Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor keep up winning record
The joint-managers have a super record at minor and u-21 record and they continued this in Thurles. While they earned their promotion to the senior job, the pair now have to prove that they are up to the task – and this was a fine start.
It was by no means a perfect performance from Clare – and the management duo will be annoyed at the the wide count, particularly in the second half. Also, the mini-collapse mid-way through the first half could have been fatal if it wasn’t for Limerick’s own struggles in front of the posts so they have plenty to work on over the next few weeks.
Clare lack killer instinct
It is rare that you get a team win a Munster Championship game by a wide margin but Clare will feel they should have been more than four points ahead when the final whistle blew. They missed a number of frees in the second half, and when Kyle Hayes got a late goal, Clare were made to sweat in a game where they should have been further ahead.
It must be mentioned that part of this was Limerick’s never-say-die attitude as the Shannonsiders fought to the bitter end.
Limerck end with six forwards who are u-21
When Barry Nash and Aaron Gillane replaced Graeme Mulcahy and Shane Dowling, all Limerick’s forwards who finished the game were eligible for u-21. Add to that Tom Morrisssey, who replaced Peter Casey, and seven u-21s lined up in their forward line over the hour. While there is an obvious lack of experience in that forward line, the future is exciting for Limerick hurling and Kyle Hayes, Casey and David Dempsey all showed the potential they have.
Limerick also had two debutants at corner back with Sean Finn impressing and Mike Casey not looking out of place at this level.
Clare win without Tony Kelly impressing
It was an uncharacteristically quiet afternoon for Tony Kelly who was held scoreless over 70 minutes. This was typified when he drove a late penalty wide.
In a strange way this was a good sign for Clare – it proved they aren’t reliant on the Ballyea man. The likes of John Conlon and Conor McGrath stepped up to the plate, as did Shane O’Donnell who hit two early goals to put Clare in a commanding position.
Despite nine substitutions, only two minutes injury time
Perhaps a pedantic point, given that it had little impact on the result, but something noteworthy all the same. Kyle Hayes’ late goal reduced the gap to four and, who knows, an announcement of five minutes added on could have spurred them on.
Both teams used their full complement of subs (though Limerick used one at half time) meaning nine changes only led to two minutes injury time. Had it been Limerick that ended the game with the few chances Clare did, this could have been a big controversy.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena