Cork 3-17 Limerick 0-8
Cork got their defence of the Munster SFC off to a pain-free start as they easily saw off Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.
Last July, Conor Counihan’s side visited the Ennis Road venue and beat Clare by 3-16 to 0-13, and this was much the same in outcome, though six of the Rebels’ starting 15, and sub Andrew O’Sullivan, were making their championship debuts.
Though it was far from a perfect Cork performance, with the lay-off since the end of the league campaign at the start of April making them rusty early. The main thing for manager Counihan and his selectors, however, will have been that the task was negotiated, and more importantly, negotiated without the problems that recent clashes with the Shannonsiders have presented.
Late injuries to Eoin Cadogan and Aidan Walsh meant that Cork brought former Antrim player James Loughrey and Alan O’Connor into the side, and while Damien Cahalane marked his first championship start with a 45 inside three minutes, the opening was fairly slow overall.
Awful point attempts peppered both sides’ play, and Daniel Goulding should have goaled for Cork but Donal O’Sullivan saved well with his legs before Limerick captain Seánie Buckley got his side off the mark in the 10th minute with a super score from the left flank.
Limerick withdrew full-forward Iain Corbett to the middle sector as they sought to work the ball up the field, but Cork sent Cahalane to follow him, and the open prairie tended to suit him better. Another score from him, this time a free from further out, put Cork back in front and though Ger Collins levelled for Limerick again, that was as good as it got for them as Cork began to find a bit of rhythm.
Two Daniel Goulding points, one a free, gave them a bit of breathing space before Ciarán Sheehan blazed wide with the goal at his mercy following a flowing move, but it did not prove fatal to Cork’s hopes.
Instead, with their next attack, Goulding’s effort dropped short and another debutant, Brian Hurley, fisted the ball to the net for 1-4 to 0-2, and then John O’Rourke, also making his first championship appearance, got in on the act.
After James Loughrey and Paul Kerrigan linked well, O’Rourke’s low shot beat O’Sullivan, with corner-back Mark O’Riordan unable to stop the ball on the line, and Goulding made sure that it reached the net.
Then, after Eoghan O’Connor’s free ended 18 scoreless minutes for Limerick, Cork struck for a third goal, Pearse O’Neill taking O’Rourke’s pass on the run and charging through the Limerick cover before blasting past O’Sullivan.
With a 3-4 to 0-3 half-time lead, only an absolute calamity would stop Cork from advancing to a semi-final meeting with Clare in Cusack Park in Ennis on June 16, and so it proved, with Limerick’s three interval substitutions failing to reverse the general flow of the game.
Goulding almost added a fourth five minutes into the second period, hitting the post from O’Neill’s pass, but the corner-forward did get his third point shortly after and Paul Kerrigan and Hurley added more to open up a 12-point lead.
With Limerick’s challenge all but gone, the game was now Cork’s to put to bed, and they did so with ease and no little clinicality. Hurley’s dream debut continued, while Kerrigan’s link-up play was also evident and Goulding, starting only his second championship game since 2011, used the time to add to his personal tally.
John Galvin, for so long Limerick’s talisman, did his best but was not at his best. He went close to getting a Limerick goal in the 53rd minute, however, Paudie Kissane – playing in the unfamiliar surroundings of the full-back line – got in a great block.
Sub Stephen Lucey finally opened Limerick’s second-half account after that, and points from Galvin and Eoghan O’Connor – a rasping shot tipped over by Ken O’Halloran – followed, but damage limitation was the objective for the home side by this stage.
O’Halloran bravely saved from Stephen Lavin late on, but in any case Cork had done more than enough. Sub Mark Collins got three points before the end and O’Rourke gilded his display with a point while Fintan Goold got two, leaving 18 points between the teams at the end.
CORK: K O’Halloran; P Kissane, M Shields, D Cahalane (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 45); J Loughrey, G Canty, T Clancy; A O'Connor, P O’Neill (1-0); C Sheehan (0-1), P Kelly, J O’Rourke (1-1); D Goulding (0-5, 0-1f), B Hurley (1-1), P Kerrigan (0-2).
Subs: D O’Connor for Sheehan, F Goold (0-2) for Kelly, N O’Leary for Canty (all 50), A O’Sullivan for O’Neill (56), M Collins (0-3) for Kerrigan (59).
LIMERICK: D O’Sullivan; A Lane, J McCarthy, M O’Riordan; S Lavin, P Ranahan, P Browne; B O’Brien, J Galvin (0-1); J Riordan, T Lee, S Buckley (0-1); G Collins (0-1), I Corbett, E O’Connor (0-3, 0-1f).
Subs: S O’Carroll Lee, M Sheehan (0-1) for Corbett, D O’Connor for O’Brien (all half-time), S Lucey (0-1) for Buckley (51), L O’Dwyer for O’Riordan (56).
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).