As they did in their League opener last week against Galway in Kilmallock, Limerick tried, gallantly and gamely, and in Shane O’Neill, Nicky Quaid, Paul Browne, Brian O’Sullivan and Thomas O’Brien they had players of real class.
Overall, however, they are simply not good enough for this level. Any time Cork needed to up the ante, they did so, brushing the youngsters in green aside.
At the start of the match, Cork blasted into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead with giant full-forward Michael Cussen, in his first league start, claiming 1-1. Then before the break, after Limerick had cut the gap to a goal, Cork again pushed on and tapped over three quick points to lead 1-10 to 0-7 at the interval.
On the restart Limerick had a quick point from free-taker Alan O’Connor, but this merely served as another reminder for Cork, and a four-point burst from the hitherto misfiring Pat Horgan took the visitors well clear again.
From there to the end it was simply going through the motions, not related to a contest as the game played out to its inevitable conclusion. Both managers filled their full quota of subs, and for Cork, young Cian McCarthy looked especially sharp, notched 1-1, Aisake O hAilpín looked hungry for action, as did Niall McCarthy.
“I felt we could have been closer,” Limerick boss Justin McCarthy said afterwards. “We made a few mistakes which changed the course of the game. Overall, I couldn’t fault the players for their commitment and endeavour.”
No-one could, any more than you’d fault a game novice hurdler that has just been swallowed up in a Champion Chase. What chance then that novice hurdler, however gutsy and committed, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup?
What will happen this Limerick team when the sod is dry, the ball flying, the crowds roaring? How would Limerick do against a fully committed Cork team with the Newtown contingent – Cathal Naughton and the twins, Ben and Jerry O’Connor – back in harness, along with Seán Óg O hAilpín, Donal Óg Cusack?
Whatever about Limerick, this was a difficult game for Cork. “You can’t win really,” said Cork boss Denis Walsh. “If you only scrape home, or if you win by three or four goals, you still can’t win. We lacked a bit of urgency, and what’s the reason for that? We probably weren’t clued in properly, which is disappointing. At times we had it but then it would fade again. I’d say the lads are a bit disappointed after this. I know 2-21 is good scoring, and we got 1-22 last week against Offaly – but I think the lads will be disappointed with their inconsistency.”
As for the situation in which Justin McCarthy finds himself, 27 of last year’s panel out of the picture, as a former long-time work colleague of the Limerick manager, on a personal level Walsh can certainly sympathise with his plight, but he wasn’t about to be drawn.
“We had our own situation in Cork last year. I was brought into that, maybe because I kept my mouth shut, so I have no intention of saying anything now either, because I don’t know anything about it,’’ Walsh said.
Meanwhile, Limerick and McCarthy get ready for Waterford. “We’ll regroup, we’ll look at it, we’ll talk about it, but we’re learning all the time,’’ he said. So much to learn, however, so much to learn.
Scorers for Limerick: T. O’Brien 1-2 (0-2 frees); A. O’Connor 0-4 (all frees); B. O’Sullivan 0-2; P. Browne 0-2; N. Quaid 0-2; P. McNamara, G. Mulcahy, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: M. Cussen 1-5; P. Horgan 0-6 (0-4 frees); C. McCarthy 1-1; J. Gardiner 0-4 (0-1 free, 0-2 65s); K. Murphy 0-2; M. O’Sullivan, G. Calnan, N. McCarthy, 0-1 each.
Subs for Limerick: M. Deegan (Carr inj. 30); T. O’Brien (Owens 42); P. Harty (Brennan inj. 49); C. Hayes (Kenny 52); D. Moore (O’Connor 61).
Subs for Cork: C. McCarthy (O’Leary 52); A. O hAilpín (M. O’Sullivan 57); N. McCarthy (Calnan 65); A. Ryan (O’Neill 68).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath) – Good job.