Ronan McCarthy’s description of this 17-point trouncing of Limerick as a “great workout” for his side is very much open to debate. It’s a take that is somewhat at odds with events in Rathkeale yesterday.
Where the first half is concerned, the Cork manager was perfectly correct in his post-match assessment. The second half, on the other hand, and contrary to McCarthy’s assertion, was of little use to the visitors to Mick Neville Park and of even less benefit to their subdued hosts.
At half-time in this McGrath Cup semi-final clash, Cork held a 1-6 to 0-6 lead. Such was the competitive nature of the opening period, there weren’t too many hints of the desperately one-sided fare that was to follow — Cork took the second half by 2-9 to 0-1.
The Cork team contained eight of the side that began the Qualifier hammering by Tyrone back in July, but it was newcomer Damien Gore who opened the visitors’ account two minutes in. Brian Hurley, having sent wide a run-of-the-mill free directly in front of the Limerick posts, redeemed himself in the ensuing play when slipping the ball past Donal O’Sullivan for a Cork goal on 11 minutes.
The Castlehaven forward followed up with a point and with Cork already five clear (1-3 to 0-1), Limerick appeared headed for the longest of January afternoons.
To their credit, the Division 4 side kept chipping away; five Sean McSweeney frees bringing them within a goal of the Rebels turning around for the second period.
The contest, however, was wrapped up within three minutes of the restart. First, Ruairi Deane set up Paul Walsh and the Kanturk half-back, starting his first competitive fixture for Cork, palmed the ball to the net 30 seconds into the half. Two minutes later, a Brian Hurley handpass took three Limerick defenders out of the equation, providing Ian Maguire with a clear path to goal, the St Finbarr’s midfielder duly obliging.
The hosts had nothing to offer by way of response. They’d register just one second-half point, McSweeney’s sixth free of the day arriving in the third minute of stoppages. The county has not won a competitive fixture since March 2018 and managing one point from play yesterday served only to compound their winless streak.
“The second half was poor, I take responsibility for that in how we set-up for the second half,” said Limerick manager Billy Lee.
“The goals after half-time took the wind out of our sails. Bigger than how you got your scores (frees or from play) is that we only got seven points. We are building and trying to do things positive. It is about trying to help the lads wearing the jersey move forward.”
Among the positives for Cork were the showings of Paul Walsh and Damien Gore, the latter more than eager to get his hands on possession and show his wares every time Cork pressed forward. Tom Clancy at half-forward is an experimentation which should again be tried in this Saturday’s decider against Clare (venue to be confirmed this evening).
At the other end of the field, James Loughrey was motoring very well for the first weekend of January. But given the date printed on the front of the match programme and the non-event of a second half, it would be a most futile exercise to read anything into this limbering out exercise.
Scorers for Cork: B Hurley (1-3, 0-1 free); I Maguire (1-2); P Walsh (1-1); R Deane, D Gore (0-2 each); J Loughrey, K Crowley, J Fitzpatrick, T Corkery, E McSweeney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick: S McSweeney (0-6, 0-6 frees); T Griffin (0-1).
CORK: M White; C Dennehy, J Loughrey, K O’Donovan; K Crowley, K Flahive, P Walsh; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; T Clancy, S White, M Taylor; D Gore, R Deane, B Hurley.
Subs: T Corkery for Crowley (22 mins, inj); E McSweeney for White (HT); A Browne for Loughrey (45); J Fitzpatrick for O’Hanlon (53); P Murphy for Flahive (54).
LIMERICK: D O’Sullivan; P Maher, S O’Dea, M Donovan; B Fanning, T McCarthy, G Brown; D Treacy, T Griffin; J Liston, S McSweeney, M Fitzgibbon; P Nash, A Kearns, K Daly.
Subs: C McSweeney for Fanning, D Lyons for Daly (both 44 mins); S Keely for Fitzgibbon (50); J Lee for Liston, L Murphy for Maher (61).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).