Senior star Setanta Ó hAilpín, with a goal in each half, helped Cork to a 3-8 to 0-8 lead at the three quarter-stage, and while the champions make a tremendous effort to hold on to their titles, scoring 1-3 without reply, the home-side remained in control to finally end a three year losing sequence at the hands of Limerick.
Cork had many stars. Shane Murphy always had the measure of Limerick captain Andrew O’Shaughnessy, which took much of the sting out of their attack, Gerry O’Brien was unbeatable at full-back, while outside him John Gardiner, after a shaky start, settled down to play a major role.
Paul Tierney was superb at midfield and his contribution of three points was crucial; Cork struggled in attack for long periods, but Ó hAilpín, Diarmuid O’Riordan and substitute Fergus Murphy always had the beating of their men.
After three glorious years on top, Limerick finally succumbed to a better balanced Cork side, but Eoin Foley, Niall Moran, Patrick Kirby and substitute Peter Russell can be pleased with their night’s effort.
Limerick were quickest to settle and led after 20 seconds with a Patrick Kirby point. But Cork were level after two minutes when Paul Tierney pointed.
After a rather tame opening quarter, the game sprung to life in the 17th minute when a free from his own 65 by Gardiner went all the way to the Limerick net, boosting Cork no end.
With their key forward O’Shaughnessy held in a vice-like grip by Brian Murphy and Graham Callanan doing well at wing-back, Cork struck for a second goal in the 22nd minute when Setanta Ó hAilpín grabbed Gardiner’s long deliver, raced clear before kicking home, and when Diarmuid O’Riordan added a point, the home side led 2-4 to 0-5 after 25 minutes.
The champions were struggling in a lot of areas and were almost totally
reliant on Patrick Kirby to keep them in touch with three points from frees.
But Cork, driven on by a vociferous home crowd, finished well with a Paul Tierney point. And as the sides trooped off at half-time with Cork 2-5 to 0-6 in front, Limerick’s titles were resting precariously.
Limerick resumed the second-half with O’Shaughnessy at full-forward with Brian Murphy still on his shoulder, but it was Cork who struck first with a Diarmuid O’Riordan point. However, while the chances were
being created in attack, principally through the excellence of Paul Tierney at midfield, they were not taken.
However the introduction of Fergus Murphy changed that. Tierney, who was having a powerful game at midfield, slipped over a point, Murphy added another with his first touch before Ó hAilpín, to thunderous applause, dispossessed Paudie O’Dwyer as he was about to clear, raced clear before blasting home his second goal which put Cork three goals in front at 3-8 to 0-8 after 45 minutes.
The old adage that champions die hard rang true for Limerick and they came storming back, helped by Eoin Foley at centre-back and the introduction of Peter Russell to their attack.
Exerting enormous pressure on the Cork defence, the champions finally got the goal they craved all night when Patrick Kirby drove the rebound to the net after O’Shaughnessy’s 20 metre free was only partly cleared, and it set the scene for a grandstand finish.
Limerick were in full cry, and three point without replay were added to cut the deficit to a goal with 10 minutes remaining. And such was their dominance, they looked capable of going on to win the game.
However, Cork’s defence put up the shutters and one marvellous flick by Brian Murphy to knock the ball off O’Shaughnessy’s stick as he bore down on goal was magnificent.
Cork weathered the Limerick onslaught which didn’t yielded any more scores for the champions. Indeed they were grateful for a great save by keeper Timmy Houlihan who denied Fergus Murphy a goal before Diarmuid O’Riordan put the icing on the cake for the home-side with an injury-time point to end their losing sequence.
Scorers for Cork: S Ó hAilpín 2-0; J Gardiner 1-0; P Tierney, D O’Riordan 0-3 each; F Murphy 0-2; D Cashman, M O’Connor (free) 0-1 each.
Limerick: P Kirby 1-5 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65); P Russell 0-2, N Moran, T Carmody, A O’Shaughnessy, C Foley 0-1 each.
CORK: M Coleman; S Murphy, G O’Brien,
B Murphy; G Callinan, J Gardiner, C O’Connor;
P Tierney, K Hartnett; M O’Connor, K Murphy,
S O’Sullivan; D O’Riordan, S Ó hAilpín, D Cashman. Subs: F Murphy for O’Sullivan; B Barry for M O’Connor.
LIMERICK: T Houlihan; D O’Mahony,
P O’Dwyer, M Cliford; G Heagney, E Foley, M O’Brien; N Moran, P Tobin; T Carmody, P Ryan, P Kirby; A O’Shaughnessy, B Geoghegan, B Murray. Subs: P Russell for Murray; G O’Sullivan for Ryan; A. O’Connor for Geoghegan.
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).