The 775 hardy souls who braved the bitterly cold conditions saw Cork begin brightly, take their foot off the accelerator and then take control of the game in the second half to run out easy winners.
Cork put Limerick under pressure right from the throw-in — within the opening four minutes the visitors hit the post, had a Brian Hurley shot waved wide after it had initially been flagged as a point, and John O’Rourke brought a good save out of James Brudair in the Limerick goal.
However, Limerick had the opening point, a good effort from distance by Danny Frewen, on five minutes. Cork’s Luke Connolly responded from distance to tie it up, and then Danny Neville edged Limerick in front.
Then Cork hit 1-3 in five minutes to take the initiative. Castlehaven man Brian Hurley knocked over two close-range frees before Dan Mac Eoin lofted in a high ball from out on the wing. John O’Rourke judged the flight well to punch home from close range, and when Hurley pointed another free, it was 1-4 to 0-2 and 11 minutes gone.
It could have been worse — Brudair advanced to save well from Mark Sugrue when the centre-forward came through the centre not long after the goal — but Limerick then took over, and kept Cork scoreless for quarter of an hour.
They didn’t make it easy for themselves up front, however. Francis O’Riordan cut the deficit with a free in the 18th minute, but the home side also hit three poor wides in the second quarter, at a time when they were winning the ball in midfield through good play from Darragh Treacy and Patrick O’Donnell.
Still, a Peter Nash effort from play and an O’Riordan free made it 0-5 to 1-4 with five minutes left to play in the first half.
Alan Cadogan nudged Cork further ahead with a good point, but O’Riordan hit the score of the first half in response, the right-footer putting over a free from far out on the right wing.
Cork struck late, however, with a John O’Rourke point to maintain their goal advantage at the half, 1-6 to 0-6.
The Rebels introduced Cathal Vaughan at half-time and the substitute had a point within a minute of the second-half throw-in.
Hurley added a good solo point a minute later and Cork began to motor — Dan Mac Eoin curled over a free and Hurley had a good point from play, with Limerick only registering a brace of O’Riordan frees in response. Cork led 1-10 to 0-8 with 40 minutes played.
Hurley might have ended the game as a contest then, but Brudair got down quickly to his right to save the Corkman’s stinging shot. Vaughan added his second point immediately after and O’Rourke hit a point from distance, and Cork had a seven-point lead.
With a goal or two looking beyond Limerick, the final quarter was something of a canter for Cork. The Shannonsiders had points late on from the reliable O’Riordan (two frees) and Frewen but it was a matter of respectability rather than affecting the result.
The men in red and white had late goal chances from Clancy and Mac Eoin, only to be denied by the post and Brudair respectively, and there were some casual wides which won’t have pleased manager John Cleary, but they eventually added a second goal, through Hurley, on 58 minutes.
Cork now progress to a Munster final on April 10 in Thurles, where they’ll face a Tipperary side who are likely to be a far more testing proposition.
Scorers for Limerick: F. O’Riordan 0-7 (fs); D. Frewen 0-2; P. Nash, D. Neville, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: B. Hurley 1-5 (0-3 fs) J. O’Rourke 1-2; C. Vaughan 0-3; D. MacEoin 0-2; A. Cadogan and L. Connolly 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: J. Brudair, S. Cahill, J. O’Meara (C), B. McCarthy, P. White, I. Corbett, S. Barrett, D. Treacy, P. O’Donnell, S. Sheahan, M. Brosnan, D. Frewen, D. Neville, F. Riordan, P. Nash.
Subs: J. Lee for S. Cahill, 44; K. O’Donoghue for S. Barrett, 45; B. Creamer for P. O’Donnell, 50; K. Larkin for P. Nash, 55; D. O’Dea for M. Brosnan, 58.
CORK: D. Hanrahan, B. O’Driscoll, C. Dorman, A. Cronin, TJ Brosnan, D. Cahalane (C), J. Wall, T. Clancy, I. Maguire, A. Cadogan, M. Sugrue, J. O’Rourke, D. MacEoin, B. Hurley, L. Connolly.
Subs: C. Vaughan for Sugrue, HT; J. Burns for T. Clancy, 51; S. Kiely for Cadogan, 54; K. Crowley for A. Cronin, 58; K. Hallissey for MacEoin, 59.
Referee: K. O’Brien (Tipperary).