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Moran the main man as Limerick beat Clare

NIALL MORAN has received more than his fair share of criticism in the green of Limerick, but after Saturday's 3-18 to 1-20 SHC qualifier win over Clare in Semple Stadium, it's time he was cut some slack.

The experienced Ahane star is in a rich vein of form. He scored 3-1 against Laois and added a goal against Antrim in Limerick's previous qualifiers. But they were facile wins and Moran produced his best display of the season on Saturday, clipping over five majestic points to send Clare crashing out of the championship in Thurles.

He reflected: "Everyone has their critics but in some counties certain fellas are fall guys.

"You never set out to hurl a bad game, but sometimes things just don't run for you.

"I'd be the first to acknowledge when things go bad and I acknowledge when they go right. Today is just one day and the next will be different again.

"I love hurling for Limerick. I love hurling for my club. I give my life to it. Sometimes people don't acknowledge that, but that's them, not me."

On a night when Limerick needed leaders, Moran (left) obliged. Shane Dowling played his part too, banging over eight nerveless frees.

This was a bridge too far for the Banner County -- just a week after an energy-sapping Cusack Park brawl with Dublin.

"When you have an extra week, it makes an awful difference," Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald said. "I think they've got to look at that.

"You spend weeks there doing nothing and then you have to come out one week after another.

"If they could space it out -- even every two weeks, you'd be better off. That can be accommodated.

"But let's not make excuses about that. They beat us and we were playing catch-up for the second half. And in that second half, they deserved their win."

Limerick looked fresher after half-time, having had a fortnight to recover from their Antrim 'exertions'.

It was amazing that the first half didn't produce more goals as rival goalkeepers Nickie Quaid and Tony Kelly produced heroics.

Limerick led by seven on three occasions in the second half before Tony Kelly's late goal cut the gap to three. But Limerick closed out the game.