Limerick 0-16 Cork 1-11
A seven-point headstart helped Limerick to their second Munster U21 hurling title in three years, writes Eoghan Cormican.
The Treatymen led 0-7 to no-score after 13 minutes, although Cork closed the gap to four at half-time, thanks to Tim O'Mahony's goal.
But in front of 11,774 fans, Cork couldn't get any closer than two points as Aaron Gillane's six converted frees saw Limerick home safely.
In front by 0-11 to 1-4 at the break, Limerick had the elements in their face for the second period, but conjured up the ideal start through a pair of Gillane frees. This stretched their lead out to six and kept considerable distance between themselves and a Cork team who were without a focal point in attack, as Declan Dalton and Shane Kingston (second-half) were well curtailed.
Barry Nash’s second, to leave the favourites 0-14 to 1-5 in front, was their final score before an 18-minute barren period, the Rebels subsequently landing four without reply to pare the margin back to two points. Crucially, though, only one of this brace arrived from open play, that a Michael O’Halloran effort. It summed up Cork’s struggles in the second half of the pitch.
At the other end, the hosts registered miss after miss, with their final wides tally coming in at 12. Gillane’s fifth free broke the rot and his sixth, following a foul on sub Conor Boylan, sealed the county’s eighth Munster title at U21 level. Indeed, half of this haul has been collected at Cork’s expense.
Limerick, backed by a strong wind, had ripped Cork apart during the opening quarter.
By 14 minutes, the home outfit had raced seven-points clear. Cork, by this juncture, had yet to raise a flag of any description.
Ronan Lynch set the tone with a long-range free inside 52 seconds, with Aaron Gillane adding a second placed-ball on three minutes. Half-back Thomas Grimes, Peter Casey and Gillane (free) followed up with three more in quick succession, the latter score stemming from a superb catch by Colin Ryan as he rose highest to collect a Mark Coleman delivery out of defence.
Treaty half-back pair Ronan Lynch (free) and Grimes completed their early scoring burst before Kingston got Cork off the mark after 15 minutes. O’Mahony and Kingston further narrowed the deficit and, though both scores were subsequently cancelled out, the Rebels received a major shot in the arm when O’Mahony, with a one-handed strike, goaled four minutes from the break.
It proved a rare breach of the Treaty defence and that two points was the closest they came to Limerick at any time neatly captures an evening where John Meyler’s charges were constantly giving chase. In the end, they simply ran out of road.
Limerick’s journey, though, has a bit to run yet.
Scorers for Limerick: A Gillane (0-6, 0-6 frees); R Lynch (0-2 frees), B Nash, P Casey, T Grimes (0-2 each); T Morrissey, M Mackey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: T O’Mahony (1-1); S Kingston (0-3); D Dalton (0-2 frees), M Coleman (0-2 frees), M O’Halloran (0-2 each); R O’Flynn (0-1).
Limerick: E McNamara (Doon); S Finn (Bruff), D Fanning (Pallasgreen), D Joy (Kilmallock); R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), K Hayes (Kildimo/Pallaskenry), T Grimes (Na Piarsaigh); C Ryan (Pallasgreen), R Hanley (Kilmallock); A Gillane (Patrickswell), M Mackey (Adare), C Lynch (Patrickswell); P Casey (Na Piarsaigh), T Morrissey (Ahane), B Nash (South Liberties).
Subs: P Ahern (Killeedy) for Casey (43 mins); C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh) for Mackey (47); D O’Neill (Mayfield) for Lowney (56); B Murphy (Doon) for Morrissey (56); L Lyons (Monaleen) for Hanley (61).
Cork: P Collins (Ballinhassig); J Cashman (Blackrock), E Murphy (Sarsfields), D Griffin (Sarsfields); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra); D Browne (Kanturk), M Coleman (Blarney); D Lowney (Clonakilty), P Leopold (Sarsfields); M O’Halloran (Blackrock), D Dalton (Fr O’Neill’s), S Kingston (Douglas); T O’Mahony (Newtownshandrum), R O’Flynn (Erin’s Own), C O’Leary (Valley Rovers).
Subs: J O’Connor (Sarsfields) for O’Leary (40); J Looney (Aghada) for O’Mahony, D O’Neill (Mayfield) for Lowney (both 57); C Cahalane (St Finbarr’s) for Cashman (61)
Referee: R McGann (Clare).