Even when considering diluting the relevance of Saturday’s fixture and the fact the GAA season is not yet a month old, there is still no disguising this clinical and confident Limerick showing — 3-20 from open play — on a bitterly cold night in Mallow.
Silverware in January won’t define their 2015 campaign, far from it, but as TJ Ryan remarked afterwards — this was another good news story for Limerick hurling.
Indeed, the strands of optimism for Ryan and his backroom team were to be pulled from almost every line on the field. Tom Condon’s venture out to the half-back line proved most successful, the Knockaderry man hitting three points from distance. Gavin O’Mahony’s migration to centre-forward, imitating the role carried out for Kilmallock last year, yielded 1-2, while Cian Lynch’s talent was abundantly clear on the right flank of attack. Inside, Adrian Breen staked his claim for league action with 2-3.
“We are fully understanding it is January, but we came down to win it,” said Ryan.
“The competition over the last couple of weeks has been good. We had a nice couple of wins. We probably had more recognised first-teamers than Cork tonight. We would have been expected to win and we expected to win it ourselves.
“You would hope Kilmallock would get a win next weekend, and keep the good news coming and keep the positivity surrounding Limerick hurling.”
It was the home outfit who opened brighter, Stephen Moylan, set up by Paul Haughney and Luke O’Farrell, pouncing for the contest’s first goal on nine minutes. Limerick absorbed the early set-back and replied with an unanswered 1-4 in a productive six minute burst.
Tom Condon, Cian Lynch, Adrian Breen and Gavin O’Mahony split the posts in quick succession before O’Mahony capitalised on a Lorcán McLoughlin mistake, charged through the central channel and buried the sliotar into the bottom right corner of Patrick Collins’ goal.
The Cork ‘keeper produced an excellent save to deny O’Mahony a second Limerick goal, but the Cork rearguard, coming under increased pressure as the half wore on, were breached for a second time on 32 minutes.
Collins was culpable under the high ball and when William Kearney was unsuccessful in attempting to clean up the mess, Breen bundled the sliotar across the line. Lynch and Breen tallied further minors thereafter to stretch the gap out to seven, 2-11 to 1-7 they led.
Cian McCarthy sniped a pair of points to reduce the interval deficit, the centre-forward standing as the one Cork player to ask questions of the Limerick defence in the opening half.
Seamus Harnedy and Mark Ellis were introduced at the change of ends to revive the Cork effort, Christopher Joyce and Patrick Horgan also sent into battle early in the second-half. Points from McCarthy (0-2, 0-1 free), Haughney, O’Farrell and Andy Walsh reduced Limerick’s advantage to 2-14 to 1-14 entering the final quarter. No closer would they come.
Shane Dowling and James Ryan dispatched rousing scores in the subsequent action and the contest was all but ended when Breen pulled to the net on 59 minutes, a score inspired by a superb Patrick Begley catch.
Scorers for Limerick: A Breen (2-3); G O’Mahony (1-2); C Lynch (0-4); T Condon (0-3); J Ryan, C King, T Morrissey (0-2 each); N Moran, S Dowling (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: C McCarthy (0-8, 0-3 frees); S Moylan (1-0); A Walsh, P Haughney (0-2 each); L O’Farrell, B Lawton, B Murray, P Horgan (0-1 each).
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, S Hickey; T Condon, D O’Grady, D Morrissey; J Ryan, C King; N Moran, G O’Mahony, C Lynch; T Morrissey, S Dowling, A Breen.
Subs: P Browne for N Moran (39 mins), W McNamara for Condon (41), P Begley for King (55), J Fitzgibbon for Lynch (60), C Allis for D O’Grady (65).
CORK: P Collins; W Kearney, D Cahalane, S O’Donoghue; B O’Sullivan, L McLoughlin, G O’Connor; P Haughney, A Walsh; B Murray, C McCarthy, B Lawton; S Moylan, L O’Farrell, D McCarthy
Subs: S Harnedy for Murray (HT), M Ellis for O’Connor (HT), C Joyce for O’Sullivan (41 mins), P Horgan for D McCarthy (46), C O’Sullivan for O’Donoghue (54).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).