Clare’s Aidan McCarthy and Dan Morrissey of Limerick in action at Cusack Park. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Limerick stun Banner with late goals and points blitz

Limerick 3-15; Clare 1-18

They used to say that Limerick’s ability to dominate the modern hurling game came for the superiority they inflicted on opponents in the third-quarter of games. They became the specialists in putting opponents to the sword in that opening stanza of the second half; yet after that period in this game on Sunday they were still nine points behind and looking very much like they did against Kilkenny in the league semi-final last month - a shadow of their former selves.

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 From somewhere down in the deep of their hurling souls, they summoned their misfiring spirits and then something clicked finally for them; but this time it was in the final quarter where their pride and passion collided to unleash a barrage of scores that sent previously dominant Clare reeling against the ropes. So good were Limerick that they outscored their neighbors and great adversaries by 3-6 to 0-3 in those closing 18 minutes at Cusack Park on Sunday.

Indeed those killer goals were condensed into a seven-minute period in this segment as the Munster and All Ireland champions came from nine points back to win by three in an enthralling encounter from first minute to last in front of 20,000 fans packed into the venerable Ennis ground.

For sure, Clare asked the big questions of  John Kiely team on this occasion but this time they found answers largely thanks to the switches made which saw young blood like Donnacha Ó Dalaigh come in to breathe new life into a pretty lifeless attack. Not only did he score a goal and a point, his pace and movement opened up corridors to goal for others and the likes of Aaron Gillane, who was finding the going tough against Clare skipper Conor Cleary, found the space to raise a decisive green flag.

Clare led by five at the break thanks to some great play and an Aidan McCarthy goal and kept up their superior play to push their advantage to nine leading into the back straight.

Kiely earned his corn big time with his decision to call the likes of Tom Morrissey and Seamus Flanagan ashore as the subs who came in changed the course of the game.

Those rapid fire goals followed, the first a fortuitous 65m free from Diarmaid Byrnes, before Ó Dalaigh and Gillane weighed in with three-pointers which helped to effect a 12-point swing in the contest. Chief architect for two of the goals was Gearóid Hegarty, a man who drifted backwards last year in terms of importance to the team but seemed hell-bent on getting back up to his place of preeminence in this campaign.

Brian Lohan is now in his fifth year as Clare boss endeavoring to slay the dragon which breathes fire in his direction from next door. This time he looked to have found the formula to douse the Treaty flame, but somehow ended up getting badly burned in the process himself.

On paper he appeared to do everything right with his tactics and team selection yet ironically it was at the time he sent on a modern day Banner talisman Tony Kelly that the wheels started to fall off his push for a home victory. Instead of being the final nail in the Limerick coffin and although he scored two points when introduced, it was Kiely’s team which found the higher gear, scoring four unanswered points before firing the three goal salvo in such a short space that Clare were down and out for the count.

Lohan’s declaration afterwards, ”it's gut-wrenching really," just about summed up how every Clare follower must have felt after experiencing the pain of that final quarter.

“Games are over 70-75 minutes, 80 minutes, and you have to perform for all of that time. We lost our concentration, we lost our shape and we lost the game. Some really poor goals, really poor defensive pieces of work. Very disappointing from our perspective. Really disappointed with that last 10-15 minutes for the way we played.”

There is no rest for the victors or the vanquished in this new format as they are out again next week. Said Lohan: “It's the same for all teams, whether you win or lose, it's four games, quick turnaround, just have to see if we can deal with it.”

Limerick manager John Kiely was overjoyed at the response of his players who this year are seeking to reach five-in-a-row nirvana of Liam MacCarthy Cups. “There was so much in that 80 minutes. First half we were giving away too many frees. We didn't capitalize on our possession and the chances we had. In the first half we had 18 chances to their 16 and yet we went in 4-5 points down. That was disappointing.

"The start of the second half wasn't great for us too, we struggled a bit. But the thing is Clare didn't hurt us at that time, if they had hurt us with three or four points at that time we'd have gone down nine or 10. The impact of the bench has to be the biggest piece of the day for us. All the lads that came on gave us energy, gave us possession, gave us line breaks, gave us chances, gave us scores, they gave us everything,” he stressed.

Asked to explain the sluggishness in his side’s ranks, the manager pointed out that “a lot of our lads haven't a huge amount of work done yet due to a lot of injuries during the spring. For a lot of these it was only their first or second game of the year. There is only so much you can expect. I know they'll come on from this. This will bring them on a ton.”

Whether that can come as quickly as the coming weekend only time will tell as Tipperary visit the Gaelic Grounds intent on putting down their own marker in this year’s Munster series. As Brian Lohan said Clare get ready for a trip to Cork with both sides knowing only two well following first round defeat to Limerick and Waterford respectively that another setback will see them out of the round-robin series.

Limerick: N Quaid; M Casey, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes (1-0f), D Hannon, K Hayes (0-1); W O’Donoghue, C Lynch (0-1); G Hegarty (0-3), T Morrissey, C O’Neill (0-2); S Flanagan, A Gillane (1-5f), D Reidy (0-2) Subs: S Finn for Casey (5, inj), D Ó Dalaigh (1-1) for Flanagan (45), C Boylan for T. Morrissey (48), A English for O’Donoghue (59), A O’Connor for Gillane (67)

Clare: E Quilligan; A Hogan, C Cleary, R Hayes; D Ryan, J Conlon, D McInerney; D Lohan, C Malone; D Fitzgerald (0-2), D Reidy, P Duggan; A McCarthy (1-10, 0-8f), S O’Donnell (0-1), M Rodgers (0-2) Subs: S Morey (0-01) for Lohan (HT), T Kelly (0-2, 0-1f) for Reidy (54), P Flanagan for Hayes (58), S Meehan for Rodgers (62), A Shanagher for Fitzgerald (69)

Ref: C Lyons (Cork).

Waterford 2-25; Cork 1-25

Like him or loathe him, there is no denying  Davy Fitzgerald has box office attraction like no other hurling manager; on Sunday his delight at the final whistle as Waterford emerged victorious in a cliffhanger was palpable for all to see what such an occasion means to him.

After a while in the doldrums, his Deise ship is again seaworthy and you can bet your bottom dollar Davy will give it one helluva go at winning silverware in this championship year.

The silence had been deafening coming out of Waterford as he put his squad through rigid preparation and once Jamie Barron got in for a goal in the second minute, it gave the home side at Walsh Park belief that they could go all the way against a rejuvenated and quietly fancied Cork side.

It was no cakewalk in the park for the winners who had to battle every step of the way. Indeed the big moment that pushed them towards victory arrived short of the hour mark when Stephen Bennett lashed home a 58th-minute penalty,  arising out of an incident which saw Rebels talisman Ciarán Joyce black-carded.

 Adding to the woes of the visitors was seeing full back Damien Cahalane receive his marching orders on a second yellow, thereby forcing the men in red to operate two men light at this critical juncture.

Any chance of a comeback was gone at that stage though the impressive Alan Connolly’s late goal with time almost up and made the scoreline more respectable.

Both these sides failed to qualify last year and following this win, Waterford will feel they can kick on while it will be a backs to the wall job for the Corkonians against Clare in what is a winner takes all tie this weekend.

Waterford: S O’Brien; I Daly, C Prunty, K Bennett; C Lyons (0-3), T de Búrca, M Fitzgerald; N Montgomery (0-1), D Lyons; J Prendergast (0-2), M Kiely (0-1), J Barron (1-3); D Hutchinson (0-10, 0-9f), SBennett (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-1f), K Mahony Subs: P Fitzgerald for Mahony (58), P Curran (0-2) for Montgomery (63), P Fitzgerald for Kiely (70+3, inj).

Cork: P Collins; G Millerick (0-1), D Cahalane, S O’Donoghue; M Coleman (0-1), C Joyce, R Downey; T O’Connell, D Fitzgibbon (0-4); S Harnedy (0-2), C Lehane (0-1), S Twomey; S Barrett (0-3), A Connolly (1-4, 0-2f), P Horgan (0-7f) Subs: L Meade for Fitzgibbon (33-34, blood), R O’Flynn (0-01) for Twomey (h-t), B Hayes (0-01) for Lehane (52), Meade for Harnedy (60), E Downey for Horgan (64), J O’Connor for Coleman (70+1).

Ref: M Kennedy (Tipperary).

Football Championships

Tyrone 1-23; Cavan 2-16

We got three games in one in this overall thriller before 10,000 at Breffni Park on Sunday. 

Game one we thought was going along predictable lines when Tyrone led by eight points midway in the second half.

 Game two saw Cavan  almost end their winless streak against the Red Hand as they came storming back with two goals to force extra time. 

Game three was the extra 20-minutes of low scoring fare where Tyrone’s extra nous was enough to get them past this mighty jolt on the road. They now face supercharged Donegal in the Ulster semi-final with Armagh facing old rivals and neighbors Down in the other penultimate tie.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1f);  C Devlin, P Hampsey, M McKernan (0-3); S O’Donnell, M Donnelly (0-1), N Devlin (0-1); B Kennedy (0-1), A Donaghy; C Daly (0-1), K McGeary, L Gray (1-0);  D McCurry (0-4, 0-2f), D Canavan (0-7, 0-3f), R Canavan (0-2) Subs: B Cullen (0-1) for K McGeary (53), C McShane for R Canavan (58), J Oguz for A Donaghy (60), M O’Neill for L Gray (66), L McGarrity for B Kennedy (70), T Quinn (0-1f) for D McCurry (77), C Cush for D Canavan (83), N McCarron for C Devlin (86)

Cavan: G O’Rourke; Cian Reilly, K Brady (0-1), B O’Connell (0-2); P Faulkner (1-0), N Carolan (1-0), Conor Brady; L Fortune (0-1), O Kiernan (Denn; C Brady, G Smith (0-1), O Kiernan (Castlerahan); C Madden (1-1), P Lynch (0-5, 0-3f), O Brady (0-3) Subs: J Smith for O Kiernan (Denn, 33 mins), T Madden (0-2) for O Kiernan (Castlerahan), J McLoughlin for L Fortune (both ht), Cormac O’Reilly for C Madden (48), K Clarke for K Brady (61), C Rehill for N Carolan (78), R Donohoe for P Faulkner (79), TN Hofmann for Ciaran Brady (83)

Ref: D Coldrick (Meath)

Galway 1-13; Sligo 0-14

Pity poor Sligo who thought they had done enough to cause the surprise of this year’s football championship series only to be sucker-punched with a late goal which saw Galway snatch victory in the last seconds at Markievicz Park on Saturday.

How bad was it on a scale of one to 10? Pretty bad when the winning manager, Padraic Joyce accepted that his men had “robbed” the Yeats County of a famous victory against his side which contested the All Ireland final two seasons ago.

That late smash and grab win came courtesy of a last-gasp Rob Finnerty goal which had the traveling band of Galwegians in raptures and the home following sick as the proverbial parrot.

“We’re just relieved to get out of that. Sligo were very unfortunate not to see the game out, we’ve probably robbed them in the end, to be honest. It was the 73rd minute before we got ahead in the game. We know we were lucky to win the game,” Joyce acknowledged.

He went on: “The big positive is that, even though everything was going against it and we weren’t really clicking as a team, we kept at it and kept at it and eventually got the break at the end. We didn’t give up. The lads stuck at it, I have to give them full marks for that.”

He also pointed to Damien Comer’s contribution when introduced as a sub as a game changer for his team, adding that it was a help that his other start forward Shane Walsh also got some time on the pitch after injury.

“It's good to have the two lads back, but they’re a long way off match fitness – or championship fitness, as we know.Damien was instrumental there at the end for the turnover. It’s good to get more time into Shane. He’s only back on the pitch a couple of weeks, so we’ve two weeks now to knuckle down and get a bit of work done and see where we are in two weeks’ time.”

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, J Glynn; D McHugh (0-1), J Daly, L Silke; P Conroy, S Kelly; J Heaney (0-1), S Walsh (0-1), C Darcy (0-2), J McCabe, R Finnerty (1-5, 0-1f), L O’Conghaile Subs: D Comer (0-2) for  McCabe (42), C O’Curraoin for Walsh (47), D O’Flaherty for J Daly (55), K Molloy (0-1) for O’Conghaile (58), P Egan for Conroy (64).

Sligo: A Devaney; E Lyons, E McGuinness, P McNamara; B Cox, N Mullen (0-1), D Cummins (0-1); S Carrabine (0-1), C Mulligan (0-1); C Lally (0-1), A McLoughlin (0-2), P O’Connor (0-3); P Kilcoyne, N Murphy (0-3, 0-1f, 0-1m), M Gordon (0-1) Subs: L Deignan for Gordon (52), M Walsh for Lally (62), P Laffey for Cummins (65), E Smith for Carrabine (67), D Conlon for  O’Connor (70+1)

Ref: B Tiernan (Dublin).

GAA Results

Ulster  SF Championship

Donegal 4-11; Derry 0-17

Tyrone 1-23; Cavan 2-16

Munster SF Championship

Kerry 0-18; Cork 1-12

Clare 2-20; Waterford 1-9

Connacht SF Championship

Mayo 1-15; Roscommon 0-13

Galway 1-13; Sligo 0-14

Munster SH Championship

Limerick 3-15; Clare 1-18

Waterford 2-25; Cork 1-25

Leinster SH Championship

Wexford 1-21; Dublin 2-18

Galway 2-25; Carlow 2-14

Kilkenny 5-30; Antrim 0-13