Limerick set a new points scoring record as they overcame neighbours Clare at an eerily-quiet Semple Stadium to retain their Allianz Hurling League Division 1 crown and set up a Munster SHC semi-final showdown with All-Ireland champions Tipperary next Sunday.
The reigning Munster champions had 11 different scorers against a Clare side for whom the brilliant Tony Kelly posted a whopping 0-17, including 0-8 from play. Doubling up as the league final, the game was delicately poised at half-time with the sides level on 0-15 apiece, but a Gearoid Hegarty-inspired Limerick blitzed their opponents after the restart with six unanswered points and not even a 47th minute goal from Ryan Taylor could halt their momentum.
Tony Kelly certainly didn't deserve to finish on the losing side after producing one of the finest individual displays seen in Thurles in many years. The 2013 Hurler of the Year was unstoppable in the first half, reeling off eight points, including five from play, in the opening quarter to help the Banner to a 0-9 to 0-7 lead at the first water break.
John Kiely's charges hit a purple patch between the 22nd and 34th minutes during which they outscored Clare by 0-8 to 0-2. However, it was still anyone's game at the interval after two points from Kelly - which brought his first half tally to 0-12 - and another from Diarmuid Ryan tied up the scoring.
Limerick captain Declan Hannon lifts the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 trophy. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.
But with the wind behind them in the second half, the Treaty County streaked clear with six points on the spin in the opening five minutes per Graeme Mulcahy, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch and Tom Morrissey.
Taylor's goal gave Brian Lohan's men a glimmer of hope, but the 2018 All-Ireland champions rattled off six of the next seven points to underline their superiority. Ultimately, they had far too much firepower for the Banner, with 26 of their points coming from play.
It should be some battle between themselves and Tipp in Pairc Ui Chaoimh next weekend.
Limerick - N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes (0-3), D Hannon (0-1), P O'Loughlin; C Lynch (0-1), W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty (0-5), K Hayes (0-3), T Morrissey (0-4); G Mulcahy (0-2), A Gillane (0-12, 9f, 1’65), P Casey (0-3). Subs: D O’Donovan for T Morrissey, S Flanagan (0-1) for P Casey, P Ryan (0-1) for G Mulcahy, D Reidy for W O’Donoghue, J Boylan for B Nash.
Clare - E Quilligan; J Browne, C Cleary, R Hayes; P O’Connor, S Morey, S O’Halloran (0-1); D McInerney, C Malone (0-2); D Ryan (0-2), D Reidy, D Fitzgerald; T Kelly (0-17, 9f), S O’Donnell, R Taylor (1-1). Subs: A Shanagher for D Fitzgerald, A McCarthy for D Reidy, D McMahon for D McInerney, A Cunningham for R Taylor.
Referee - F Horgan.Tweet