Limerick 4-12 Clare 2-13

Updated: Saturday, 30 Apr 2011 21:01

Own goal - Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy accidently threw the ball into his own net in the first half
Own goal - Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy accidently threw the ball into his own net in the first half

Limerick secured promotion to the Allianz Hurling League’s top flight after a well-contested Division 2 final in Ennis.

Donal O'Grady's charges scored 1-04 in the closing nine minutes to eclipse their Munster rivals.

Kevin Downes’ superb 67th-minute goal was the knockout blow to Clare, who had battled back impressively from a 2-06 to 0-08 interval deficit.

Darach Honan, John Conlon and Conor McGrath gave Clare a four-point lead, but Limerick produced a final flourish to take the title.

Clare manager Ger O'Loughlin made two changes to the team announced during week with Patrick Donnellan replacing Brendan Bugler in defence, and Liam Markham coming in for James McInerney at midfield.

Markham certainly proved his worth to the Clare cause in the opening stages, with the Cratloe clubman claiming the opening score of the contest after just 45 seconds.

The hosts had all of the early momentum. Jonathan Clancy and Nicky O'Connell were both guilty of poor shooting before O'Connell made amends in the fourth minute with a well-struck '65', edging his side 0-02 to 0-00 in front.

But Limerick suddenly woke up, taking the lead thanks to a sixth minute goal from Sean Tobin.

A long ball was played in on top of the Limerick half-forwards, Richie McCarthy set off on a solo run and passed for Tobin to plant the ball into the back of the net, with Donnellan, Conor Cooney and goalkeeper Donal Tuohy left in his wake.

Points from Colin Ryan and O'Connell ensured the hosts regained the lead by the 15th minute, yet Limerick continued to threaten in front of goal.

Graeme Mulcahy kicked the ball into the Clare net in the 17th minute but his effort was ruled out.

Referee James McGrath had initially signalled for a free following a high challenge on Downes.

McCarthy slotted over the resulting free to level the contest, before Fergal Lynch and Downes traded scores to leave the sides tied at 0-05 to 1-02.

A Lynch point and a third O'Connell score edged the Banner men ahead and after McCarthy and Ryan traded points, Limerick seized control again.

Clare net minder Tuohy suffered a nightmare moment in the 33rd minute after Seán Tobin got a slight flick on a long ball in from Seamus Hickey.

Tuohy initially looked to have got his block in, but lost control of possession and the ball nestled in the net as Limerick claimed the lead for only the second time.

Points followed from Downes, McCarthy and Paul Browne to give Limerick some breathing space at the break.

Nonetheless, Clare immediately sliced into that four-point deficit on the resumption. Substitute Darach Honan raised Clare's hopes, placing a rocket of a shot past 'keeper Nicky Quaid after just 35 seconds of the second half.

Honan beat Limerick captain Gavin O'Mahoney for pace before raising the green flag to cut the deficit to the minimum. John Conlon was in inspirational form for Clare, chipping in with three of the next four points to move O'Loughlin's men into a 1-11 to 2-07 lead.

McCarthy tied the game with his fourth point of the game, before Clare registered their second goal. Conor McGrath pounced on a low-slung delivery to nudge his side back in front.

Honan continued to cause problems for the Limerick defence, flicking over an inspirational point after getting the better of O'Mahoney and Tom Condon.

Limerick bounced back from the resulting puckout with a well-taken goal. Teenager Declan Hannon rounded Donnellan to cut the gap to a point in the 54th minute.

Conlon and Limerick midfielder Donal O'Grady swapped scores and with the pressure on, Limerick substitutes Niall Moran and Pat Tobin were both guilty of missed opportunities.

The visitors made amends in the closing stages though, O'Grady hitting a well-struck score and Browne following up with another. Downes then nipped in from the left sideline and produced a fantastic finish from an acute angle to send the Shannonsiders' supporters into raptures.

The goal was the decisive score and gave Limerick enough of a boost to get over the finish line with something to spare. Points from Hannon and Moran were the icing on the cake as O'Grady's side completed an unbeaten eight-match run in this season's league.

For Clare, they will have to lick their wounds following their second successive defeat in a Division 2 final.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; D Reale, G O'Mahoney, T Condon; W McNamara, S Hickey, D Breen; D O'Grady (0-01), P Browne (0-02); D Hannon (1-01), R McCarthy (0-04, 0-03f), J Ryan; S Tobin (2-01), K Downes (1-02), G Mulcahy.

Subs used: N Moran (0-01) for S Tobin (47 mins), P Tobin for McCarthy, D Moloney for Breen (both 56).

CLARE: D Tuohy; P Vaughan, C Cooney, D O'Donovan; P Donnellan, C Dillon, P O'Connor; N O'Connell (0-03, 0-02 '65'), L Markham (0-01); F Lynch (0-02), J Conlon (0-04, 0-01f), J Clancy; C Ryan (0-02, 0-02f), D McMahon, C McGrath (1-00).

Subs used: D Honan (1-01) for McMahon (18 mins), C Morey for Ryan (59).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)