A view of the spectators as the teams parade. [Inpho/Bryan Keane]

Limerick hit 6, now eye 5

Limerick 1-26; Clare 1-20

How do you combine a “hit for six” with a “drive for five?” Be being Limerick hurlers, that’s how.

They now have the Munster six-in-a-row in the bag following their comprehensive victory over Clare in Thurles on Sunday. And that is a record down south.

Now as the week progresses manager John Kiely and his merry men will be focusing on the ultimate honor in hurling by going where no team has ever gone before to win five-in-a-row of Liam MacCarthy cups. 

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Even the great Kilkenny team under Brian Cody came up short in 2010 against Tipperary when trying to ink that achievement into the eternal slate of sporting firsts.

Poor Clare, this was the third year in a row they came full of hope and expectation only to return home with their tails between their legs. On this occasion, they were off the mark and you wonder now will it be Cork or Kilkenny who will put up their fists and try to bloody the Treaty nose?

Afterwards Kiely was full of praise for his charges and the challenge thrown down by the Banner. "Really tough game, delighted we came out the right side of it. It might have been our sixth but it felt like our first," he said.

"Another chapter I suppose really and we knew coming today was going to be a chapter. We both had come through the campaign in Munster in good form and we were teed up for this really and I think our first-half performance against the breeze was exceptional.

"We controlled it for good spells and even though we conceded that goal just before half time and it was a tough pill to swallow and it was poor from us but, if anything, it just sharpened the axe a small bit for us at half-time and I think we got a good start to the second half which was really important.

"Clare came back at us which you'd only expect them to do, ball came off the post for a goal chance. We were never out of sight but at the same time we always found a way to get those extra couple of scores and everybody worked really, really hard so we were very pleased with the win. It means a huge amount to the group and closes that chapter now and we move onto the next."

Limerick’s greatest strength is the ability for one player on a particular day to shine when it matters most. On Sunday that man of the match performance came from Gearóid Hegarty,  who caught some great ball in the first half and then stuck a dagger in the Banner heart with an opportunistic goal early in the second moiety, as well as slotting over two points.

"The Munster Championship is just so difficult, it's incredible to even think we've done six-in-a-row but to be honest with you, I don't really care about the six-in-a-row, I just wanted to win the 2024 Munster Championship because it just puts us in a great position again going forward this year," he said.

"I know the last couple of years have been unbelievable. It's probably something that we'll look back on in time to say, 'How the hell did we do that?'

"But right now I'm just so happy that we’re in an All-Ireland semi-final. Okay, we won by six points in the end but it didn't feel like a six-point win really at times because it was so close out there."

Limerick are oft-quoted as a third quarter team but in retrospect they did the spade work for this victory in the first half and were three points up against the wind until a Peter Duggan goal fortuitously saw Brian Lohan’s team level at the interval.

Limerick were superior thereafter and Hegarty’s green flag 11 minutes into the half gave them the margin they needed to keep a gallant foe at arm’s length for the rest of the game.

Mark Rodgers had a chance to possibly change the outcome when he took Tony Kelly’s pass but instead of passing the ball into the net, he lashed it against the butt of an upright with the sliotar careering to safety from a Limerick point of view.

Limerick: N Quaid; M Casey, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes (0-5, 0-3f), D Hannon (0-2), K Hayes (0-2); W O’Donoghue, C Lynch; G Hegarty (1-2), Cl O’Neill (0-1), T Morrissey (0-4, 0-1f); A Gillane (0-5,0-4f), S O’Brien (0-2), D Reidy (0-2) Subs: A English (0-1) for Lynch (53), C Boylan for O’Neill (63), D Ó Dálaigh for Gillane (68), A O’Connor for Reidy (69), G Mulcahy for T Morrissey (73).

Clare: E Quilligan; A Hogan, C Cleary, C Leen; D Ryan, J Conlon, D McInerney; D Lohan, Cl Malone; D Fitzgerald (0-4),  M Rodgers (0-2, 0-1f), P Duggan (1-1); A McCarthy (0-8,0-6f), S O’Donnell (0-1), TKelly (0-3) Subs: D Reidy for Lohan (62), I Galvin (0-1) for McCarthy (63), R Hayes for Cleary (65).

Ref: C Lyons (Cork).