This was the last Munster championship game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before they close the doors for the rebuild. Whatever about the game, it was a fitting result and the Cork fans certainly went home happy.
The game itself wouldn’t be classed as a classic and wasn’t at the same level as many another Munster finals in this old park. There were too many wides, too many passes that went astray, too much panicky hurling.
This wasn’t either of these teams at their best. Take Shane Dowling and his two first shots on goal, a free and a 65 almost in the centre; normally he’d put those over in his sleep — he missed both. Was it nerves? Whatever the reasoning and explanation, those misses cost Limerick in the first half.
Shane Dowling wasn’t the only guilty party by any means. Limerick minors cost themselves a Munster title too for the same reason — too many bad wides, a lack of composure.
Cork were guilty of that too and Alan Cadogan, for all that he had three fine points, hit two bad wides in the second half when a pass was the far better option.
Something else that was lacking in this game was real hard tackling. I’m talking especially about players coming through on a solo run, fellas backing off and backing off — top strikers are having a ball these days.
This was TJ Ryan’s first Munster final as a manager and the lesson he has to learn from it is the need for greater ruthlessness. I felt he was too loyal for too long to a few players and much as I hate to say it (I coached them at club level for a few years and I know just how good they are), two of those were his two wing-backs, Paudie O’Brien and Gavin O’Mahony, both from Kilmallock. There are two outstanding players, have given Limerick great service, but they were badly beaten yesterday: Conor Lehane with four points in the first half, Seamus Harnedy with 1-2 in the second. Perhaps even a switch of wings would have helped here, but it didn’t happen. Mind you, the Limerick defence didn’t get great help from their half-forward line yesterday because David Breen apart, they didn’t have ball-winners up there.
Another problem Limerick had was scoring goals. Shane Dowling was denied twice by timely defensive interceptions but how many saves did Anthony Nash have to make? Not one, by my reckoning.
I’d say this too though; this is an honest, genuine Limerick outfit, they’ll be the first to admit they didn’t play well yesterday, didn’t apply anything like the kind of pressure they applied on Cork when they won this title last year. Fast ball, that’s what the inside forwards need; slow ball, that’s what they were getting.
To Cork and one man I take my hat off to is Jimmy Barry-Murphy. A suggestion for Cork GAA — they have the Jack Lynch Tunnel, the Christy Ring Bridge; they should now have the JBM Stadium, because he has done so much for them.
Pa Cronin was injured at half-time; Jimmy brought in the perfect replacement, Paudie O’Sullivan; Damien Cahalane wasn’t having a good day and was replaced by William Egan. O’Sullivan was a definite plus for Cork and I’m wondering, will he start the semi-final? Management sometimes get into this routine of picking the same team for game after game, then making changes — what’s the problem, is it that they believe in piseogs? Paudie surely deserves a starting berth at this stage.
I’ve said Cork are a better team this year — they are. Mark Ellis is doing a fine Brian Hogan impression, holds the centre, takes pressure off those inside. Shane O’Neill too is back to his best, Christopher Joyce played well again as did Stephen McDonnell. As for Aidan Walsh, what a crucial player he’s proving for Cork, all over that field again yesterday — my man of the match.
A word on the other two games; congratulations to Wexford and to Liam Dunne, they did what they should have done a week ago. Commiserations to Clare; they have an All-Ireland won; they can regroup and do it again.
As for Tipperary/Offaly, the result was what we all expected. It’s down to seven now and it’s a brave man would pick a winner come September!
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