Hurling & Camogie

Clare hurlers keen to defeat Limerick and end barren spell admits Diarmuid Ryan

The all-conquering Treaty are bidding for six title in a row

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring his side’s third goal during their 3-15 to 1-18 win over Clare in the Munster SHC round one clash at Cusack Park, Ennis in April. The Banner will be out to exact a sharp does of vengeance tomorrow 
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring his side’s third goal during their 3-15 to 1-18 win over Clare in the Munster SHC round one clash at Cusack Park, Ennis in April. The Banner will be out to exact a sharp dose of vengeance tomorrow (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Munster SHC final

Clare v Limerick (Sunday, 4pm, FBD Semple Stadium, live on RTÉ2)

MUNSTER hurling final history, both good and bad, is on the line at Semple Stadium on Sunday.

If Limerick emerge victorious, they will become the first county in the competition’s 137-year history to pocket six in-a-row. A potential good omen for their Liam MacCarthy record-breaking bid.

In that scenario, Clare would rack up their seventh lost final without the relief of a win during that spell. No county has endured more except Clare themselves (11 finals during their ‘cursed’ decades from 1932 to 1995).

The Banner last raised the provincial crown in 1998 and it’s something their players want to put right.

“It’s huge. There’s three cups up for grabs. We’ve got one and we want the next one. None of us have a Munster medal, even underage,” said Diarmuid Ryan, goalscorer against Tipperary the last day.

“It’s a massive prize on offer and going to Croke Park is even bigger.”

Barring the golden generation who mopped up minor and U21 titles between 2010 and ‘14, those who arrived onto the panel in recent years haven’t tasted such success.

That’s why the League title against Kilkenny was another major milestone along the road for Brian Lohan’s charges.

There has been nothing more than a score to separate these sides in their last five meetings – but in the past two Munster finals, Limerick came out on the right side of those narrow margins.

They lost the 2022 final in an extra-time thriller before being controversially denied an equalising free last year.

“We know a lot about each other. They’ve got the upper hand in a lot of games recently so I suppose Brian has a stick to beat us with for the next two weeks,” said Ryan.

“A lot of stuff there we’ve to work on but it’s where we wanted to be at the start of the year.”

Clare have been experts in navigating one-score contests this year.

With the exception of their League semi-final blow-out victory over Tipperary, their other 10 matches have all been decided by three points or less. Their record reads eight wins, one draw, and that one loss to Limerick in Ennis.

That day, Clare led by nine before being outpaced 3-6 to 0-3 in the sprint to the finish line. They have also allowed fast finishes from Cork, Waterford, and Tipperary but gritted it out.

“That’s not going to do in a Munster final. We know that,” said Ryan.

“A lot of work to do and that’s exactly what we’re going to target, that 70-80-minute performance. Hopefully, that’ll be enough to take us over the line.”

Limerick recovered from their loss to Cork with an overwhelming victory over Waterford where they took 50 shots at the posts for 30 points. They have timed their run just right before.

Can history repeat itself? After all, they have 13 wins from 13 final appearances under John Kiely.

They have operated from settled line-ups over these glory years. It’s unusual, therefore, for Kiely to hand out a full Championship debut with silverware on the line, if not quite rabbit-out-of-a-hat territory.

After a spring “bruised by results” with the Limerick U20s, Shane O’Brien proved himself with three points off the bench against Waterford as an early substitute for Séamus Flanagan, who misses out through injury.

Allstar midfielder Darragh O’Donovan and Richie English have returned to fitness to take their places on the bench.

Clare make two defensive changes for this encounter. After a couple of games out, David McInerney resumes his wing-back berth for Cian Galvin. Rory Hayes, who was switched out for Conor Leen against Tipp, also returns.

Having Conor Cleary at full-back to marshall Aaron Gillane is a boon for Clare’s hopes given Hurler of the Year’s impact in his absence last year.

Tony Kelly continues to be named on the bench as he builds up game time. Whether he could be a late wildcard remains to be seen.