On a chilly afternoon, with a heavy pitch, there was little between the sides for most of the opening half — in fact it was the students looking just that little bit sharper at that stage, deservedly with their noses in front after 27 minutes, 0-9 to 0-8. Encouragingly though for Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy, it was Killeagh’s Seamus Harnedy doing much of the damage for UCC, with three fine points.
Finally the superior craft and class of the inter-county side began to tell and five crucial minutes before the break turned the tide with two goals from the ever-threatening corner-forwards Patrick Horgan and Paudie O’Sullivan. Centrally involved in both was towering full-forward Michael Cussen.
The Sars star, recalled to the Cork panel for the 2013 season, had already shown well on several occasions but lacked support when scores were there for the taking. But on the half hour mark it all clicked, and Cussen was crucial in the buildup to Horgan and O’Sullivan’s strikes. “We left him (Cussen) out of the panel last year and maybe we were wrong,” admitted Murphy. “He had a very good campaign with Sarsfields and deserved his place (today). We’re giving him every chance and he’s been very good so far, was excellent today, I thought.”
More eye-catching in that half than any, however, was midfielder Daniel Kearney, who established a very promising midfield partnership with Cronin before being replaced at the break after he shipped a big hit.
Kearney’s replacement, Rob O’Shea, was immediately up to the pace of the action and his early point in the second half extended Cork’s half-time lead (2-9 to 0-10) to six points. The students did hit back with Harnedy scoring his fourth point of the game followed by 1-2 from deadly free-taker Willie Griffin (Limerick), which left just two points between the teams in the 42nd minute (2-11 to 1-13).
That would be it for the college side, however. With Horgan, O’Sullivan, Cronin and wing-forward Stephen Moylan (fine outing) to the fore in the scoring stakes, half-backs Tom Kenny and Christopher Joyce stepping up their game to match that of the impressive Stephen White, Cork pulled away for a comfortable win. Notable also was the display of the full-back trio of Shane O’Neill/Colm Spillane/Stephen McDonnell who gave Anthony Nash great protection, not a single shot on goal from play during the 70 minutes.
All in all, a satisfying opening to the 2013 season for Jimmy Barry-Murphy. “We’re working hard in training, getting ready for the National League. Tipperary at home (league opener) will be a big game for us. It’s going to be a very difficult league campaign the way it’s set up, with three away games, so we’re aware we have to hit the ground running against Tipperary. We’ve played two games already, played the Galway champions (St Thomas) last week, played CIT also. This was a step up again, we’re very pleased with it.”
Encouraging also was how several of the newer players performed, with both Cork and UCC. “I thought some of them were excellent. We’re trying to build the panel and it’s reviewed on an ongoing basis; we’ll keep doing that. We don’t get everything right, it’s obviously a work-in-progress. It’s going to be a hard year. I’ve already said I don’t think we made massive progress last year. We took small steps, that’s how I look at it, we’re not patting ourselves on the back or anything. There’s great morale in the camp, lads are working very well together and training well.”
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 2-8 (1-4f 0-2 65s); P O’Sullivan 1-3; P Cronin 0-4; S Moylan 0-3; M Cussen and R O’Shea, 0-1 each.
Scorers for UCC: W Griffin 1-7 (1-5f); S Harnedy 0-5; B Hartnett, C Lehane, D McCormack, B Murray, 0-1 each.
CORK: A Nash; S O’Neill, C Spillane, S McDonnell; T Kenny, C Joyce, S White; D Kearney, P Cronin (c); B Corry, C McCarthy, S Moylan; P Horgan, M Cussen, P O’Sullivan.
Subs: R O’Shea (Kearney inj. 35); M O’Sullivan (Cussen 56).
UCC: D McCarthy (Cork); S White (Tipperary), D Glynn (Kilkenny), B Cleary (Limerick); J Barry (Tipperary), K Lane (Cork), W Egan (Cork); B Lawton (Cork), B Murray (Cork); S Harnedy (Cork), D McCormack (Tipperary), B Hartnett (Cork); A Breen (Limerick), C Lehane (Cork), W Griffin (Limerick).
Subs: K Ryan (Clare, Maher 35); B Coughlan (Waterford, Cleary 35); M Sugrue (Cork, McCormack 35); B Lawton (Cork, Breen 56); M Howard (Cork, Murray 62).
Referee: J O’Brien (Tipperary).