/ GAA

Clare 1-09 Limerick 1-13

Updated: Sunday, 07 Jun 2009 20:05

Limerick's Jim O'Donovan and Clare's Kevin Dileen in action in Ennis today
Limerick's Jim O'Donovan and Clare's Kevin Dileen in action in Ennis today

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Determined Limerick became the first team to qualify for next month’s Munster SFC final, following a four-point semi-final win over Clare at Cusack Park in Ennis this afternoon.

Mickey Ned O'Sullivan's charges booked their place in the provincial decider for the first time since 2004 in a game which saw Clare score only two second half points.

Ian Ryan, who lit up Limerick's Championship campaign last year in his debut season, was to the fore and top-scored with eight points during an entertaining semi-final clash.

The visitors bounded out of the blocks as Clare looked stunned early on.

The Shannonsiders signalled their early intent, building a six-point lead after just seven minutes’ play.

But Clare gradually got back in touch as a Gary Brennan goal saw the hosts bounce back and the sides were level at 1-07 apiece at the interval.

However, Limerick's experience and resolve stood them well on the restart, with Ryan and Ger Collins to the fore as they carved out a four-point win.

With Clare searching for their first win over Limerick since 1984 this was always going to be a tough task but Frank Doherty's charges recovered well despite the disastrous start.

Limerick won possession from the first half throw-in and quickly converted it into a point, with Stephen Lucey slotting over the opening point inside 50 seconds. That was quickly followed by a Jim O'Donovan score.

Early momentum was certainly with the visitors who continued to rack up scores, with Stephen Laffan putting his name to a fourth minute goal.

A composed Laffan sent a fine, low shot past advancing Clare 'keeper Dermot O'Brien.

Ryan struck the first of his eight points soon after as Limerick strode into a 1-03 to 0-00 lead.

But Clare responded well as free-taker David Tubridy settled the hosts with a pointed free in the eighth minute.

The Banner men showed their battling qualities and their determination certainly paid off as they began to win more breaking ball in the midfield sector.

A Gary Brennan goal in the tenth minute acted as the catalyst, cutting the gap to two points.

The Clondegad midfielder went on a bursting run, after receiving a pass from Paul Reidy, and finished it off by rasping the ball to the back of the Limerick net.

With the momentum now with the hosts, a brace of Ger Quinlan scores – including an excellent long-range effort – levelled the tie at 1-03 apiece at the end of the opening quarter.

Clare hit the front then with Tubridy notching his second pointed free.

In a keenly-contested second quarter the sides were level on four occasions in a 15-minute spell before half-time, including at the interval with Tubridy's third point squaring it up again.

Indeed Clare could have been ahead at the break, with a goal-chance coming their way in the 27th minute, but full-forward Timmy Ryan slotted the ball inches wide of the target from close range.

But, disappointingly for the home fans, Clare completely fell apart in the second half.

Limerick once again began at a blistering pace on the restart with Ryan and Collins continuing to torment the Clare defence.

A trio of Limerick scores ensured the visitors led by 1-10 to 1-07 inside five minutes, and although Tubridy kept Clare in touch with a pointed free, his side could only add one more point to their tally.

Scores from Eoin Hogan and Ryan kept Limerick on top, with Tubridy now guilty of some wayward shooting.

Michael O'Shea attempted to revive Clare's challenge late on, but the damage was done for his side who now face into the All-Ireland qualifiers on 4 July.

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