Shane O’Donnell hit two first-half goals and Clare survived a late Limerick onslaught after Kyle Hayes’ 70thminute goal to record a 3-17 to 2-16 win and take their place in the Munster hurling final against either Cork or Waterford.
Conor McGrath also found the net for Clare in the second half and former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly fired a late penalty wide, but the Banner men never trailed after the fourth minute and they held on to record their first win in the provincial championship for four years.
David Dempsey’s goal and a couple of quick Cian Lynch points threatened to lift Limerick’s challenge midway through the first half, but after Clare entered the interval on a high they ran out easy winners.
A couple of long-range frees from Shane Dowling got Limerick off to a very bright start in front of 19,168 supporters at Semple Stadium, but what followed was a blistering reply from Clare.
In his first start of the season, former All-Star McGrath got Clare on the board with a good point on the turn in the fourth minute, and a minute later the lead was Clare’s when O’Donnell was first to the break at the edge of the square to fire a crisp ground shot past Nickey Quaid.
A David Reidy free in the ninth minute – his first of five – meant O’Donnell’s goal separated the sides, and five minutes later the Clare man struck his second goal when Kelly’s diagonal pass broke of Aron Shanagher and he finished well with a short grip to make to 2-02 to 0-03.
The next three points fell to Clare, the first of which was a brilliant point from O’Donnell after his smart pick and turn on the left, but with an eight-point lead to their name, the Banner men seemed to ease off for a couple of minutes, which was punished by Limerick.
Three points in the space of a minute from Peter Casey and Lynch (twice) lifted their hopes, but when Dempsey hit the net after Andrew Fahy failed to control Lynch’s weak shot Clare’s lead was soon down to a point.
Paul Browne soon drew his side level with his second point of the half, but Clare finished strongly with five points in the last four minutes of the half to lead by 2-10 to 1-08 at the interval.
Considering that Limerick struck 11 wides before the interval, John Kiely will have been disappointed to see his side trail by five points, but playing into the other end they immediately found their range thanks to scores from Dempsey and substitute Barry Nash – with his first touch – meant they trailed by just three.
But hesitancy at the other end proved their downfall.
A brilliant tackle from Sean Finn had just denied Kelly a certain goal, but Colm Galvin’s long ball was allowed to bounce in the Limerick square and McGrath pounced and flicked past Quaid for a two-goal lead.
Surprisingly, Kelly failed to score in the game and saw his 68th minute penalty fly wide of Quaid’s post, but even when Hayes hit a fine goal two minutes later Clare were not overly bothered and they ran out easy winners.
Clare: A Fahy; S Morey (0-01), D McInerney, P O’Connor; G O’Connell, C Cleary (0-01), D Fitzgerald; C Galvin (0-01), D Reidy (0-05, 0-05f); T Kelly, P Collins, J Conlon (0-02); A Shanagher, C McGrath (1-03), S O’Donnell (2-02)
Subs used: J McCarthy (0-01) for O’Connell (53), I Galvin (0-01) for Collins (60), A Cunningham for Shanagher (63), C Malone for McGrath (65), C McInerney for Kelly (69)
Limerick: N Quaid; S Finn, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Morrissey, D Hannon, S Hickey; P Browne (0-02, 0-01’sl), J Ryan; S Dowling (0-07, 0-07f), D Dempsey (1-01), C Lynch (0-02); P Casey (0-01), K Hayes (1-01), G Mulcahy
Subs used: G O’Mahony for Hannon (24-26 blood), B Nash (0-01) for Mulcahy (h-t), R English for M Casey (40 mins), T Morrissey for P Casey (53), A Gillane for Dowling (57), P Ryan (0-01) for J Ryan (57)
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath)