Allianz National Football League, Division Two: Clare 2-18 Limerick 0-9
A first Shannonside derby in seven years in the National Football League proved rather academic in Cusack Park on Sunday as hosts Clare cantered to a much-needed victory.
With both sides relegated to Division Three for 2024 with a game to spare, restoring some much-needed pride and confidence was the carrot that Clare certainly grasped with both hands despite an experimental side.
Backed by only a third of the team that faced Limerick in last year’s Munster Senior Championship in contrast to nine for their opponents, the Banner not only halted an unprecedented five-match losing streak but comprehensively put their nearest neighbours to the sword in advance of their provincial opener against Cork at the same venue in a fortnight.
The winners of that tie face Limerick, who completed a forgettable Division Two return by finishing this derby with only 13 players following a straight red card for Adrian Enright for an off-the-ball incident before Peter Nash was given a black card in injury-time.
The sending off was the clinching blow to Limerick’s already slender chance of redemption as, having seen a trio of James Naughton points slash the deficit to just five in the third quarter, their numerical disadvantage was immediately extended by a Mark McInerney goal 49 minutes in.
It was merely of how big the final margin would be for the remainder of the game as Emmet McMahon and Aaron Griffin stretched the home advantage before their University Limerick team-mate Ciaran Downes grabbed a 70th minute goal to ensure a 15 point victory.
Clare led from start to finish, with Keelan Sexton to the fore with five first half points on their way to an 0-11 to 0-3 half-time advantage. That was only accentuated with a devastating final 20 minute haul to outscore their flagging neighbours 2-7 to 0-3 in the second half.
Clare: S Ryan; M Garry, C Russell, C Rouine; I Ugwueru, J Malone, D Walsh (0-1); E McMahon (0-5, 1f), D Bohannon; B Rouine, P Collins (0-1), C Downes (1-0); M McInerney (1-2, 2f), K Sexton (0-5, 2f), A Griffin (0-3). Subs: P Lillis for B. Rouine (46), S Griffin (0-1) for Sexton (52), D Nagle for Russell (62), D Keating for Bohannon (62).
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; J Liston, S O’Dea, B Fanning; G Brown, B Coleman, C Sheehan (0-1); C Fahy, C McSweeney; A Enright, K Ryan (0-01)(, P Maher; P Nash (0-2), J Naughton (0-5, 2f), D Lyons. Subs: B Donovan for Ryan (HT), A O’Sullivan for D. O’Sullivan (HT), T McCarthy for Brown (53), D Noonan for Lyons (53), C Woulfe for Fanning (57).
Referee: B Judge (Sligo).