At least when Cork lost the All-Ireland final last year by 16 points, they were insulated by the fact that the champions had delivered one of the greatest performances of any team on the biggest day.
there was no such cushion this time however in this first round of Munster SHC at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Limerick weren’t at their best for much of it, but they didn’t have to be.
In short, they were threatened at the start of both halves, but with a casual shrug they dusted Cork and quickly cleared so far that many in the nearly full crowd rose from their seats to leave well before John Keenan’s final whistle.
After a relatively promising league, it was a disheartening afternoon for Cork as once again they were rocked by indecision and failed to match their masters physically.
It was another powerful display from Limerick with Diarmuid Byrnes impressively leading at half-back, picking up six points, half the game.
Manager John Kiely threw a curveball before the start when Kyle Hayes switched to full striker with Mike Casey, back for his first league game since the All-Ireland 2019 semi-final loss to Kilkenny, entered David Reidy’s team. costs.
The move barely fazed them and when Hayes scored in the 15th minute it felt vindicated as once again he mixed power and pace so effectively, this time closer to goal.
That goal was the platform for Limerick to lead 2-9 at 1-8 at the break and while Cork scored the first four points of the second half, taking advantage of Conor Lehane’s move to the line from half forward, the momentum was too short.
Limerick stepped it up through Cian Lynch and captain Declan Hannon while Sean Finn was imperious in defense again as they pulled clear, edging their opponents 0-15 down to 0-5 from the 39th minute.
Shane Kingston gave Cork a glorious start when, after just 13 seconds, he fired a shot past Nicky Quaid after penetrating approach work after Shane Barrett and Conor Cahalane’s throw-in.
It mirrors his first goal of last year and brings to four the number of successive league or league games he has now scored in against Limerick.
But unlike last August, Limerick’s response was not immediate. In fact, they were still two points down with no answer before Byrnes knocked them off the mark with a seven-minute free-kick and that had a calming effect.
And in the 15th minute they were in front for the first time as Hayes broke away for that goal, spinning sharply after collecting the ball from William O’Donoghue behind cover before accelerating clearly. The angle was tight, similar to his goal against Cork in last year’s Munster Championship, but he’s got the talent at this point and jumped the shot past Patrick Collins enough to give him no chance and 1-4 at 1-3 lead.
Just a minute earlier, Aaron Gillane had a half chance which Collins was equal to as he too made ground unchecked and you could see the pressure starting to build on Cork.
But they held on and actually regained the lead through Tim O’Mahony and a free Patrick Horgan to lead 1-7 to 1-5.
But Gearoid Hegarty was getting imperious with every game and he took them level, 1-7 apiece, after Tom Morrissey finally found his range after reaching three wide.
Horgan briefly gave Cork the lead from a free, quickly canceled by Gillane after a foul on Hegarty, then came a moment of indecision, or maybe moments of indecision, as Sean O’Donoghue was taken possession, putting Hayes away and from his pass Gillane was clear for a second Limerick goal, a real punch in the gut for the home side.
Lynch followed that up with his first point and when Lehane was countered from close range just before the break after Darragh Fitzgibbon put him on, it looked like Cork had run out of ideas.
They reunited briefly at the break, but the rift between these teams was as evident as ever.
Scorers – Limerick: A Gillane 1-4 (2sf), D Byrnes 0-6 (3sf), K Hayes 1-1, G Hegarty 0-3, B Nash, C Lynch, C O’Neill all 0-2 each, T Morrissey, D Hannon, D Morrissey, P Ryan, D Reidy 0-1 each
Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (8fs), S Kingston 1-0, R O’Flynn, S Barrett, C Lehane all 0-2 each, T O’Mahony, D Fitzgibbon 0-1 each.
Limerick: N Quaid; Finn S, Nash B, Casey M; Dr Byrnes, Dr Hannon, Dr Morrissey; D O’Donovan, W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy, K Hayes, A Gillane. Subtitles: C O’Neill for T Morrissey (56), D Reidy for O’Donovan (60), O O’Reilly for Hayes (63), C Boylan for Hegarty (68), P Ryan for Mulcahy (68).
Cork😛 Collins; S O’Donoghue, D Cahalane, N O’Leary; T O’Mahony, M Coleman, C Joyce; D Fitzgibbon, G Millerick; R O’Flynn, S Barrett, C Cahalane; S Kingston, P Horgan, C Lehane. Subs: S Harnedy for C Cahalane (ht), R Downey for O’Donoghue temp (41-53) R Downey for D Cahalane (53), J O’Connor for Kingston (55), A Connolly for Barrett (55), L Meade for Lehane (60)
Arbitrator: J Keenan (Wicklow)