There was a sub-plot, of course, this being the first competitive appearance of the season for a Limerick team which is shorn of 24 of the 2009 panel, 12 of them cut by manager Justin McCarthy in October, another 12 who have since withdrawn their services, all of which sees Limerick hurling in crisis.
Afterwards, however, Justin was in no humour to discuss the controversy, merely declaring himself pleased with his side.
“Very encouraged,” he said; “It was a good game and we put up a good display – UCC’s teamwork was that much better. I thought we were very committed and I thought the best man UCC had was Brian O’Sullivan (from the local club, Kilmallock), so he will be back with us.”
Selector John Touhy, who has been liaising on behalf of the management team with the disaffected players, did confirm that despite the players recent comprehensive statement, which ended with the assertion that they would not play again for the current management team, talks were ongoing: “We’ll see what happens in the future,” he said; “The door is open, everyone is still welcome.”
Limerick clearly looked very much like a work-in-progress. Nevertheless there was much for the several hundred Limerick supporters who braved the cold and damp conditions to cheer about, and cheer they did as several of Justin’s new young charges left a very positive mark.
Keeper Barry Hennessey was solid, made an outstanding save in the 29th minute to deny hard-working college centre-forward Robert White what looked a certain goal; full-back Des Kenny, though conceding several inches, battled bravely and coped well with the threat of Clare’s young superstar Darach Honan.
It was up front, however, that the Limerick youngsters really impressed. They finished with two goals, both of them superbly set up and expertly taken, but it could as easily have been five or six, had UCC keeper Anthony Nash not made three superb saves, and had the UCC inside line of defence in which all three (Foley, Conor O’Sullivan and Conor O’Driscoll) sparkled, not managed to put just enough pressure on the shooter to force the final shot wide of the posts.
Justin’s optimism, then, would appear to be reasonably well grounded though player sources suggest there will be no resolution to their particular dispute any time soon.
For a well-balanced UCC side, however, the Waterford Crystal run continues, thanks in no small part to the efforts of such as Nash and Foley, thanks also to the midfield work of Michael Cahill and Brian O’Sullivan, and thanks most of all to the accuracy of corner-forward Stephen Moylan from Cork intermediate champions Douglas, who finished with 10 points, five of those from play.
Fielding nine of the side which, last March and in emphatic fashion, won the college’s first Fitzgibbon Cup since 1998, UCC were in control from the start, led by three points at the break (0-11 to 1-5) despite being sucker-punched in the 26th minute by a fine Graeme Mulcahy goal, set up by the impressive Cathal Mullane.
They conceded again in the 55th minute, sub Alan O’Connor this time doing the damage, Mullane again doing the setup work, but really, there was never any doubt about the winner.
Scorers for UCC: S. Moylan 0-10 (0-5 frees); S. Burke 0-3; M. Cahill 0-3; T. Óg Murphy, P. Barry, B. O’Sullivan, 0-1 each.
Limerick: A. O’Connor 1-0; G. Mulcahy 1-0; P. McNamara 0-3 (0-2 frees); T. O’Brien (Patrickswell) 0-3 (all frees); T. O’Brien (Bruree), C. Mullane, R. McKeogh, 0-1 each.
UCC: A. Nash (Cork); C. O’Sullivan (Cork), R. Foley (Waterford, capt.), C. O’Driscoll (Cork); S. Corry (Cork), K. Hartnett (Cork), A. Quilligan (Clare); M. Cahill (Tipperary), B. O’Sullivan (Limerick); P. Barry (Cork), R. White (Cork), T. Óg Murphy (Cork); S. Burke (Tipperary), D. Honan (Clare), S. Moylan (Cork).
Sub: E. Murphy (Cork, Honan 56).
LIMERICK: B. Hennessy; D. Lynch, D. Kenny, K. O’Rourke; L. O’Dwyer, D. Madden, A. Brennan; D. Moore, T. Fleming; T. O’Brien (Patrickswell), T. O’Brien (Bruree), C. Mullane; G. Mulcahy, P. McNamara, R. McKeogh.
Subs: A. O’Connor (Moore 30); P. Harty (Fleming 39); S. Herlihy (McKeogh 41); B. Quinn (Madden inj. 42).
Referee: M. Wadding (Waterford).