Cork wing-forward Seamus Harnedy – my man of the match – grabbed a puckout 20 minutes into the second half and then showed great maturity by taking on the defence, heading for goal, with Gavin O’Mahony, his marker, and centre-back Wayne McNamara anticipated him driving through the centre. As Harnedy ran at the posts, Limerick full-back Richie McCarthy was directly in his line.
The percentage defensive play is to pressure the oncoming forward into passing the ball. But McCarthy moved a little to his left, anticipating a pass to Cadogan, thus opening the door. Harnedy’s strength and pace took him through. He has that coolness in front of goal that only the most natural forwards possess and he gave Nicky Quaid no chance with a piledriver. If the first goal was critical for Limerick, the second was terminal.
Seamus Hickey ran strongly up the field as the Treaty chased the game. As he attempted to go past Daniel Kearney the lively midfielder robbed him. It was the main moment in the game. But it was the quality of the Cork midfielder’s delivery that made the difference. There was a tremendous roar when he won the ball and sometimes a player can react by belting the ball away. But Kearney took his time, looked up and launched an inch-perfect pass to Paudie O’Sullivan. The angle of the delivery made it easy for O’Sullivan to round his marker and shoot low to the net.
The dominance all through of Cork’s wing forwards, the aforementioned Harnedy and Conor Lehane, was the main reason for Cork’s success, coupled with the increased influence of centre-forward Bill Cooper as the game progressed. This line scored 1-9 from play and the Limerick half-back line struggled from the start, with both wing backs Paudie O Brien and Gavin O’Mahony being replaced in the second half. Another crucial factor for Cork was Anthony Nash’s booming puckouts which kept the Limerick defence on their toes throughout.
Limericks midfielders Paul Browne and particularly James Ryan did well in the first half, with their side recording 53% possession. But that stat was directly reversed in the second half as Aidan Walsh and Kearney dominated.
Limerick had their best chance of a goal in the first half but Cork full-back Shane O’Neill diverted Shane Dowling’s shot for a 65 with a last-ditch tackle. Limerick created a few half chances in the second half but the Cork defence was resolute and funnelled back quickly to deny David Breen and captain Donal O’Grady. Dowling had a good chance on his favoured left side with ten minutes to go but, under pressure, he shot over the bar and with it went Limerick’s chance to equalise.
The bench is always important and Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy made a decisive change early in the second half. Limerick had won some good ball from puckouts down the right wing through David Breen before the break.
Breen threatened to impose himself again on marker Damien Cahalane early in the second half but JBM quickly brought on William Egan to the danger zone and the move had the desired effect.
Paudie O’Sullivan was introduced for captain Pa Cronin and the Cloyne man had a significant contribution, hitting 1-1.
The Cork management will be extremely satisfied with the team’s overall display but there are things to work on. The defence settled down well but they conceded a lot of frees. Alan Cadogan had another fine outing and his switch to full-forward piled on the pressure on Limerick’s full-back line.
Cork’s wide tally in the second half was high. Some strikes were hit from the wing, when colleagues were free in the middle and I’m sure coach Kieran Kingston will point out some further goal opportunities that could have been taken with greater awareness.
When Limerick manager TJ Ryan reflects on this game he may feel that an early switch of his wing-backs might have improved matters but those on the bench for those positions lack experience. Seamus Hickey moved to the wing for the final 20 minutes but it was a case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. He will feel little mistakes cost them scores.
All in all, Cork were better in the middle third and were that bit slicker up front.