Clare were comprehensive winners against Limerick in the eagerly anticipated Midwest Munster SHC round robin fixture at an electric Cusack Park, Ennis. Clare advance to a Munster SHC final against Cork looking to right the wrongs from last year while Limerick will need to regroup and go through the qualifier route. Hawkeye Sidekick identified five key talking points from the game today.
Clare energy and pace key
Two teams entered the field at Cusack Park but in truth, one team had the energy and work rate. Clare were utterly dominant in the open exchanges today while Limerick wilted badly in the third quarter. The demands of the Limerick side to go again searching for another big performance for the third consecutive week was too much for John Kiely’s men and Clare took full advantage.
Clare have impressed massively in recent weeks. The schedule has favored their progression, to say it has not is fool hardy. Their bye week was opportune and the freshness in their performance was evident from minute one as Clare won all the key battles down the middle of the park.
McInerney, Cleary, Galvin / Reidy, Kelly and Conlon all had excellent afternoons and they were ably assisted by the likes of Podge Collins, Shanahan, Fitzgerald and Browne. Galvin and Kelly were a joy to watch today; their movement, game management and ability to hit scores were outstanding. When Tony Kelly is on point, Clare are at a completely different level.
Two defining past weekends for Clare with their road trip win to Thurles and now an emphatic win over Limerick at fortress Cusack Park. However, this will mean absolutely nothing if they do not go and beat Cork in the Munster SHC final. They have the side to do so but the performance will need to improve even further to get over a very dangerous Cork side in two weeks time. A dangerous team though in this championship.
Limerick completely flat
Limerick were completely flat today. The work rate, running game and astute passing in recent weeks all below standard today. Fatigue was definitely a key for the team but perhaps this was a performance which needed to happen to remind Limerick hurling fans that this team is still a work in progress.
All lines struggled for parity today for long periods. The efficient running off the ball was managed well by Clare who focused their efforts on stopping Cian Lynch whenever he got the sliothar. James Owens did not give Lynch much in the way of frees as the Patrickswell player was harassed with the ball with four or five Clare players around him.
The forward line struggled for good service throughout. Flanagan tried hard and was prominent throughout. His substitution was a strange call, he offers pace and incisive running from deep. When Flanagan left the pitch, Limerick looked extremely one dimensional. The decision to deploy Shane Dowling out into midfield and half-forward line played into Clare’s hands. Dowling is a dominant player under the dropping ball in and around the area.
The disappointing thing from a Limerick perspective was that they did not throw a meaningful blow all game (except for Tom Condon’s red card). Management’s decision to not push up on Tuohy’s short puck outs in the third quarter was disappointing as his distribution was inaccurate at times.
Limerick to regroup for sure. The comparisons from pundits that this current Limerick side are at Galway’s levels are off the mark. There is undoubted potential in this Limerick camp. They have showed hurling fans their ability with some marquee wins over Tipperary and Waterford. Their battling draw against Cork was an outstanding display. Limerick should be in the All Ireland series mix and they will be a dangerous opponent for whoever is a vanquished provincial finalist.
Limerick are sick of the sight of James Owens who has officiated two of Limerick’s championship encounters so far. A Cork fixture where officiating decisions after Gillane’s red card were highlighted. Condon’s red card is what drives managerial teams mad.
The rush of blood to the head to hit out by Condon was incredibly rash and Limerick are now a team which officiating crews will have an eye on for the rest of the championship given Gillane’s red card against Cork. The less said about David Reidy’s red card, the better, looked like a shocking decision but the camera angle afforded by RTE may not have shown the full story of the incident.
Limerick will be irked by a couple of frees not afforded today by Owens particularly in the third quarter when the game was in the melting pot. Owens and Limerick quite clearly do not mix, hopefully for the Limerick team, it is the last they see of the Wexford official this season. Clare may think the same after the Reidy dismissal.
Clare Puckout Strategy
Limerick did not expose this facet of play today but rest assured that Cork will in the Munster SHC final. Tuohy in goal is still unconvincing with his puck out strategy. No Limerick pressure exerted today; was able to find his corner backs with no pressure but there were a couple of puck outs which went over the sideline. Cork will push up on the puck out of Clare and see if Tuohy can ping Clare players forty / fifty meters out. It is a facet of play which could derail Clare yet this season.
Limerick Free Taking
After such a comprehensive performance with the frees last weekend, Shane Dowling took the responsibility again today with mixed results. The early free which was ruled wide set the tone and there was another keynote miss in the third quarter of this game which could have created momentum for Limerick.
John Kiely has a decision to make with his team selection. Does Aaron Gillane come back into the starting lineup fold? His free taking is outstanding and his threat around the goal is on point with Flanagan as well. Training sessions within the Limerick camp should dictate this call but Dowling’s inaccuracy today in free taking is something to think about. Dowling is an incredible full forward option to the side when ball is hit down on him, not sure the ploy of using him in the midfield. Food for thought for Limerick management.