Since 2005, every second year has ended with an All-Ireland (the players from the winning team are then prohibited from playing the next year), and in Saturday’s curtain-raiser at the Gaelic Grounds they gave notice that they will be in the mix again.
For Cork manager Paul McCarthy, it was a case of making sure they got off on the right foot.
“We were fairly confident that we had a good squad, but at the end of the day we were just hoping to put in a performance,” he said.
“Overall, we’re reasonably happy. There was a period around 20 minutes into the first half where they got a few points in succession but our fellas knuckled down and got the scores again.
“There were good moves. Maybe at times we were screaming early on in the move to put the ball over the bar, but they knew what they were doing, we didn’t on the line!”
Cork started like they meant business, with Cathal Vaughan’s free from the right followed by the first of David Harrington’s goals. In next to no time, the lead was 1-4 to 0-0, Fiachra Lynch, Rory O’Sullivan and Vaughan on target while Ruairí Deane’s strong running from midfield was a constant feature of their play.
Francis O’Riordan (free) and Danny Neville got Limerick off the mark but while enterprising corner-forward Danny Frewen looked like he might create something for them, in general they were being overrun.
The points continued to arrive for Cork, Vaughan proficient with frees off both feet while Rory O’Sullivan strode forward from centre-back to stroke over another score.
The lead was 1-8 to 0-3 with 10 minutes to half-time, but Kieran Larkin helped Limerick to reel off four points in a row before Cork struck again, Vaughan’s free followed by another Harrington goal to lead it 2-9 to 0-7 at the interval.
After three unanswered points following the restart, Deane got the third goal, and Cork’s tally was 3-16 before Limerick opened their second-half account with a goal from Danny Neville.
Colm O’Driscoll profited from Deane’s perfect pass for another Cork goal on 52, and Deane himself rounded things off with a late goal and point to finish with 2-3. Patrick O’Donnell’s late consolation goal for Limerick was the last score, though leaving McCarthy with something to work on before the semi-final against Clare.
“It’s something that can be thrown at them certainly, that was our golden rule, not to concede goals,” he said.
Scorers for Cork: R Deane 2-3, D Harrington 2-1, C Vaughan 0-5fs, C O’Driscoll 1-1, F Lynch, R O’Sullivan 0-3 each, M Vaughan 0-1.
Scorers: for Limerick: D Neville 1-1, P O’Donnell 1-0, K Larkin, F O’Riordan 0-2fs each, S Gallagher, P Nash, K O’Callaghan (f) 0-1 each.
CORK: S Mellett; AJ O’Connor, E O’Mahony, K Harrington; Richard O’Sullivan, Rory O’Sullivan, S Kiely; R Deane, M O’Leary; C Vaughan, A O’Brien, C O’Driscoll; E Buckley, F Lynch, D Harrington.
Subs: M Vaughan for Buckley (42), P Daly for Richard O’Sullivan, K O’Driscoll for C Vaughan, S Hickey for O’Brien (all 50), M Sugrue for D Harrington (54).
LIMERICK: D Connors; K O’Donoghue, S Gallagher, S Fox; P White, G Noonan, E Fitzgibbon; B Creamer, P O’Donnell; D Neville, J Mullane, P Nash; K Larkin, F O’Riordan, D Frewen.
Subs: S Cahill for O’Donoghue (ht), J Barry-Murphy for White (33), D Finnerty for Barry-Murphy (blood, 36-60), A Murphy for Creamer (42), K O’Callaghan for Mullane (44), A Murphy for Larkin (58).
Referee: D Grogan (Tipperary).