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Big Clare breakthrough, O'Donnell goal threat and Limerick qualifier hope

The Banner ended a nine-year wait to reach the Munster senior hurling final.

Limerick and Clare players battle for possession.
Limerick and Clare players battle for possession.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

1. A breakthrough for this group of Clare players

They may have All-Ireland medals in their back pockets but the absence of any impact in their own province has started to irritate this group of Clare players. The draw last winter fell kindly for them, the chance was on offer to end their Munster hurling losing run and return to the grandeur of final day.

They achieved that with a clinical victory. Once Shane O’Donnell whipped to the net in the 6th minute, Clare moved ahead and they never subsequently trailed in the game. Suddenly the season opens up for Clare with a last six appearance guaranteed. Their 2017 outlook is bright.

2. Shane O’Donnell shines in front of goal

Mention of Clare’s All-Ireland triumph naturally creates talk about Shane O’Donnell, the attacker who dazzled in 2013. It’s been a frustrating period since for the Éire Óg man – just like it has been for the rest of his team-mates – but he started out impressively on the 2017 championship road today.

Both O’Donnell’s goals were recorded in the opening quarter. They were crucial in providing Clare with early impetus and a strong position on the scoreboard. The pair of strikes showcased the alertness, energy and electricity that he can bring to the Clare forward line. They’ll hope for more of the same this summer.

3. Limerick hurt by concession of goals

For the third successive year Limerick bowed out at the Munster semi-final stage and again the concession of goals wounded their challenge. Tipperary put four past them in the Gaelic Grounds in 2015 and smashed home three in Thurles last June. Today there were three more shots that whizzed past Nickie Quaid, all setbacks that Limerick could not recover from.

The lack of authority in their full-back line play hurt them and for both of O’Donnell’s goals, there was a chance to claim possession and clear their lines. They pegged back that deficit in the first half yet were caught again in the 50th minute when Clare’s third goal put daylight between the teams.

4. Clare’s injury woes clear up at a key stage

When Clare named their starting side on Friday night, it marked the first time in 2017 that Patrick O’Connor and Conor McGrath were selected for duty. The pair went under the knife last winter to correct shoulder problems. The plan was clearly to get them hitting full speed on 4 June. Championship would be the stage where they were judged.

And both returned to the fray in telling fashion for Clare. O’Connor provided assurance in defence as captain and McGrath supplied his customary menace in attack with a return of 1-3. Clare are better equipped with that pair of key men back in harness.

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5. Hope for Limerick despite Munster exit

Their Munster season has concluded, now Limerick will journey the qualifier route. They will not travel without hope. Getting two pillars of their side back fit would be a major boost. Diarmaid Byrnes and Gearoid Hegarty were missed from the half-back and full-forward sectors, the two vice-captains both watching from the stand due to injury.

They would be a major additions to a side that was heavily influenced by youth today. John Kiely handed seven players their first taste of Munster senior action over the course of the day. The manager was rewarded with a few impressive cameos.

Sean Finn put in a strong shift in defence while David Dempsey and teenager Kyle Hayes benefited from a first-half positional switch as they bagged 1-1 apiece. There’s something to build upon.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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