On the back of a powerful second half the champions built a comfortable five-point lead on Cork (0-23 to 1-15) as the game went into injury-time. But a cracking Cork goal by Dayne Lee, after a good run and pass by Luke Meade, took the wind out of Limerick sails and the final dramatic three minutes were played out almost entirely in the Limerick half, much of that in and around the red zone.
With time almost up Cork won a free just outside the 20m line and keeper and captain Patrick Collins — who plays outfield for his club, Ballinhassig — was called forward to do the honours. Patrick made good contact but his counterpart in the Limerick goal, Eoghan McNamara, was equal to it and deflected the shot out for a 65. Midfielder Daniel Meaney took the 65, dropped the ball short, but the danger was cleared, the final whistle sounded and Limerick could celebrate.
In truth, and even allowing for an earlier penalty save by McNamara from Cork centre-back Alan O’Callaghan (40m), had Cork goaled in those final minutes it would have been grand theft because, overall, Limerick were the better side.
Cork were game, they were gallant, and in Sean Hayes/Kingston/Lee they had a fine half-forward line. Overall, however, Limerick were more balanced and with Paddy O’Loughlin and Ronan Lynch anchoring the defence, the sublime Cian Lynch orchestrating matters in midfield, they had far more options up front, far more threat. It took until the second half for that threat to really manifest itself but when it did, they did look the part.
The first half was marred by injury to two Cork players, corner-back Shane O’Brien (8m) and roving corner-forward Darren Casey (22m), both entailing lengthy stoppages as the players were attended to on the pitch. It meant nine minutes of injury-time in which we saw probably more action than the almost the rest of the half. It also meant Cork manager Denis Ring and his selectors were forced into early changes, which didn’t help their cause.
Nonetheless, Cork were level at the break, 0-11 to 1-8, their goal coming in the third minute of the nine added on, the powerful Kingston doubling on a perfect pass from the soaring Hayes. That score put Cork a goal ahead (1-7 to 0-7) and Dayne Lee extended that lead with a fine point a couple of minutes later.
The final minutes of the half, however, were dominated by Limerick, four points on the trot, sweet-striking free-taker Colin Ryan with three of those, leaving it level.
Limerick continued their dominance on the resumption, added five points (the ever-dangerous Tom Morrissey with a hat-trick) to make it nine on the trot and see them take a grip on this game.
Cork did settle, eventually, and from there to the end of normal time matched Limerick point for point; Kingston (three), Hayes (two) doing most of their scoring, while Ryan, Peter Casey and Ronan Lynch each had a brace for Limerick.
The visitors also had chances, not least that saved penalty, but still, that five-point difference as the game entered injury-time looked just about right. Then came that Lee goal, that late drama.
Fair result, but fair play to Cork also, they came to party and did make a fight of it.
Scorers for Limerick: C Ryan 0-7 (4f); T Morrissey 0-5; P Casey 0-3; R Lynch 0-3 (3f); S Flanagan 0-2; C Lynch, R Hanley, C Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: S Kingston 1-3; D Lee 1-3; S Hayes 0-4 (3f); A O’Callaghan 0-3 (2f, 1 65); L Meade, J Looney 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: E McNamara (Doon); S Finn (Bruff), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), J Porter (Monaleen); L Lyons (Monaleen), R Lynch Na Piarsaigh), A La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen); T Grimes (Na Piarsaigh), C Lynch (capt., Patrickswell); C Ryan (Pallasgreen), B Nash (South Liberties), S Flanagan (Feohanagh/Castlemahon); P Casey (Na Piarsaigh), T Morrissey (Ahane), C Fitzgerald (Claughaun).
Subs: R Hanley (Kilmallock) for Porter (30+3); E Doyle (Monaleen) for Grimes (36); A Gillane (Patrickswell) for Flanagan (57).
CORK: P Collins (capt, Ballinhassig); C Walsh (St. Finbarr’s), S Bourke (Grenagh), S O’Brien (St. Catherine’s); O Dempsey (Youghal), A O’Callaghan (Blackrock), D Browne (Cuchulainn’s); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), D Meaney (Blackrock); D Lee (Na Piarsaigh), S Kingston (Douglas), S Hayes (Mallow); D Casey (Charleville), E Keniry (Killeagh/St Ita’s), L Meade (Newcestown).
Subs: D Dooling (Glen Rovers) for O’Brien (inj. 18); J Good (Tracton) for Casey (inj. 22); J Looney (Aghada) for Dempsey (39); T O’Connor (Inniscarra) for Good (46); M Dolan (Douglas) for Keniry (53).
Referee: P Foley (Waterford).
Dayne Lee's smashing goal for Cork in the 60th minute brought them right back into this game, made it a final few nail-biting minutes for the Limerick supporters.
How poor the touch of so many on both sides, many of whom finished their Leaving Cert exams only a few days ago. Surely another week could have been found?
Early in the game, Cork corner-forward Shane O'Brien down injured, both managers called their teams together for a mid-game huddle.
Cork's Alan O'Callaghan, Shane Kingston and Dayne Lee all shone, as did Limerick's Ronan Lynch, Colin Ryan and Tom Morrissey, but Limerick keeper Eoghan McNamara was their saviour.
Cork played all their cards in the 60 minutes, used all five subs, but none made a major impact; Limerick's Robbie Hanley meanwhile did look good.
Paul Foley (Waterford) had no impact on the outcome but missed a few calls, should have allowed advantage to Tom Morrissey (Limerick) when a goal was on in the first half.
Munster final for Limerick v Waterford on July 13th in Cork, double-header with their seniors; end of the road for Cork.