There was double delight for Limerick in Thurles as they retained their Allianz Hurling League title and also made a successful first defence of their Munster Championship crown after a powerful finish against neighbours Clare in Semple Stadium.
Limerick's superior balance and scoring threat eventually came to the surface, highlighted by 11 different scorers contributing 26 points from play.
However, John Kiely’s men did find it difficult to curb the elusive Tony Kelly, who excelled with a 17-point haul, eight of which stemmed from play.
Kelly’s lone heroics ensured that the sides were level on eight occasions in a seesaw opening period that finished at 0-15 to 0-15.
However, with the conditions to come, Limerick set a scorching pace for the new half when raiding for six unanswered points in the opening five minutes alone, through Graeme Mulcahy, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey, as they put clear daylight between the sides at 0-21 to 0-15.
Clare did subsequently lower the arrears to just the minimum by the 46th minute when Ryan Taylor grabbed the only goal of the game to accentuate a further brace of Kelly points. It would only be a momentary reprieve as Limerick’s greater spread of threats rallied for six of the next seven points to restore a six-point gap entering the final quarter.
2013 Player of the Year Kelly kept up the fight, but as the half developed Limerick moved swiftly through the gears to run out comfortable winners.
Indeed, capitalising on Clare’s weariness, the holders fleshed out the final margin with eight of the last 10 points, including braces for the impressive Gearoid Hegarty and wing-back Diarmaid Byrnes to complete back-to-back league titles for the first time in 35 years.
Their championship acid test inexorably comes next Sunday when facing All-Ireland champions Tipperary in Pairc Uí Chaoimh at 4pm.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes (0-03), Declan Hannon (0-01), Paddy O'Loughlin; Cian Lynch (0-01), William O’Donoghue; Gearoid Hegarty (0-05), Kyle Hayes (0-03), Tom Morrissey (0-04); Graeme Mulcahy (0-02), Aaron Gillane (0-12, 0-09f, 0-01’65), Peter Casey (0-03).
Subs: Darragh O’Donovan for T. Morrissey (57), Seamus Flanagan (0-01) for Casey (59), Pat Ryan (0-01) for Mulcahy (64), David Reidy for O’Donoghue (64), Jerome Boylan for Nash (72)
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Jack Browne, Conor Cleary, Rory Hayes; Patrick O’Connor, Seadna Morey, Stephen O’Halloran (0-01); David McInerney, Cathal Malone (0-02); Diarmuid Ryan (0-02), David Reidy, David Fitzgerald; Tony Kelly (0-17, 0-09f), Shane O’Donnell, Ryan Taylor (1-01).
Subs: Aron Shanagher for Fitzgerald (HT), Aidan McCarthy for Reidy (55), Domhnall McMahon for McInerney (63), Aaron Cunningham for Taylor (70)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)