Clare claimed the Division 1B final with a narrow two point win over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening.
In an evenly fought contest both sides thrilled the 9,000 plus crowd with an end to end game however in the end Davy Fitzgerald’s side showed the better composure to claim their place in the national league semi final against Kilkenny. The Banner County also gain promotion to Division 1A for next season.
Clare made a blistering start to the game with Conor McGrath scoring from a free after he was fouled by Stephen Walsh however Limerick hit back through Shane Dowling.
The fast continued with Colin Ryan putting Clare back in front however from then Limerick took control with Shane Dowling with a free and a brace from Graeme Mulcahy put Limerick 0-04 to 0-02 ahead with six minutes gone.
Dowling was proving to be a key man for limerick and he put Limerick three ahead when he intercepted a poor Cian Dillion pass to score.
Dowling and McGrath exchanged scores before Tommy Quaid spurned a golden chance for the first goal with Patrick Kelly doing well to keep his effort out.
Dowling scored his fifth of the day on 13 minutes with yet another free before Niall Moran pounced on another Dillon error to put Limerick seven points to three ahead.
Dowling took his tally to seven with two more frees as Limerick’s dominance continued however Nicky O’Connell started a late Clare revival with a long range free on 25 minutes to make it 10 points to 5.
Tommy Quaid and McGrath than exchanged scores as Limerick kept Clare at bay before a strong finish to the half from Clare saw them reduce the lead to three points with late scores from McGrath and Colin Ryan made.
Limerick suffered a blow in first half injury time when David Breen was forced off however it did not affect the Joe Allen’s side too much as Kevin Downes, Graeme Mulcahy and Seanie O’Brien scored either side of Dowling goal to put Limerick firmly in control and 8 points ahead.
If the goal was meant to knock the wind out of Clare it didn’t as they kept plugging away with McGrath their chief source of scores.
The Clare man started an unlikely comeback when he scored with a brace of frees in the 45th and 46th minute before Pat Donnellan, John Conlon and Colin Ryan got in on the act to reduce the lead to three with twenty minutes left.
Clare had the wind in their sails now and McGrath took his tally to 10 with two more, the second of which on 55 minutes made it a one point game.
James Ryan steadied things for Limerick with a point before Nicky O’Connell and Aaron Cunningham, with his first of the day levelled matters.
The game then ebbed and flowed from end to end as first McGrath put Clare ahead with 5 minutes to go only for Seanie O’Brien to level it once again, 0-19 to 1-16.
O’Brien’s effort was the last in normal time however there was still time to win with the referee adding on two minutes for injuries and how Limerick were punished. Firstly Nicky O’Connell put Clare ahead with what looked liked the winner in the 71st minute only for that man McGrath to with yet another free to seal a two point win.