Beyond the result and the return to action of midfield pair, Ian Maguire and Ruairí Deane, Cork boss Peadar Healy was hard-pressed attempting to squeeze the positives out of this one-point win.
Then again, the 2016 calendar is but three days old and it should be noted that only two members of the team that lined out against Limerick in this McGrath Cup opener were present inside the whitewash last July when Cork folded to Kildare — Colm and Kevin O’Driscoll.
This was a largely experimental Cork side and, to be fair, they did what was asked of them, even if they went about it in a laboured manner.
Ahead by the minimum at the break, 1-5, to 0-7, Dan MacEoin’s second point on 55 minutes moved Healy’s outfit two to the good — 1-8 to 0-9. Having kicked five wides between the resumption and MacEoin’s second, and lost excellent corner-back Paul White through injury on 44 minutes, it was expected the Limerick challenge would fade. Anything but.
Danny Neville kicked their third score of the half on 56 minutes and there followed a James Naughton free and a huge effort from Neville to propel John Brudair’s men in front for the first time in proceedings. Naughton did have a chance to double their lead, but his effort dropped short. And on an afternoon when clear-cut chances were at a premium, owing largely to the biting cold weather and soft underfoot conditions, it was an important miss.
Indeed, aside from a Neville hit-and-hope deep in stoppages, it proved their last chance of the game as the final five minutes saw Cork press forward at every turn.
A gentle nudge on sub Killian O’Hanlon allowed Daniel Goulding level matters from the placed ball on 68 minutes and within 50 seconds of that score Cork were level. The ensuing kick-out was fielded by a red shirt, possession moved to Alan O’Donovan who in turn picked out Goulding; the Éire Óg full-forward duly obliging.
O’Donovan was one of a number of players handed their first Cork start by Healy and although the Rebels’ half-back-line came under fierce pressure in the first half, as Limerick defenders Paul White, Ian Corbett — the contributor of two points — and Sean O’Dea poured through at every opportunity, the Nemo Rangers footballer finished strongly.
Encouraging too were the performances of Maguire and Deane in the middle of the field, Luke Connolly and Seamus Hickey in the opening half and MacEoin in the second.
Connolly was involved in setting up Goulding for the opening score and come the close of the first quarter, the home side had pushed 1-3 to 0-2 in front; Connolly again involved in the contest’s sole major. His crossfield kick to Deane cut open the visitor’s rearguard and when the latter threaded possession to the onrushing Kevin O’Driscoll, the end result was inevitable.
Limerick, through Stephen Kelly, Corbett, O’Dea and Sean McSweeney (0-2), rallied with five of the next six scores to level matters at 1-4 to 0-7 on 31 minutes. Indeed, the lead would have been theirs but for a missed penalty on 19 minutes, full-forward Stephen Kelly driving right and wide after Tom Clancy was adjudged to have pushed White.
A mixed bag so for Healy in his first competitive game in charge. Next stop; An Rinn for the clash with Waterford.
D Goudling (0-5, 0-2 frees); K O’Driscoll (1-0); S Hickey, D MacEoin (0-2 each); L Connolly (0-1, 0-1 free).
S McSweeney (0-3, 0-1 free); D Neville, I Corbett, S Kelly (0-2 each); S O’Dea, J Naughton (0-1 free), B Fanning, (0-1 each).
M Aodh Martin; C O’Driscoll, J Davis, L Harrington; A O’Donovan, T Clancy, M Collins; I Maguire, R Deane; S Beston, L Connolly, K O’Driscoll; D MacEoin, D Goulding, S Hickey.
B Coughlan for Connolly (HT), D Hazel for Harrington (HT), K O’Hanlon for Beston (HT), P Kelleher for K O’Driscoll (59), B Daly for Deane (65).
B Scanlon; J McCarthy, P Browne, P White; S Cahill, I Corbett, S O’Dea; G Hegarty, D Treacy; B Fanning, P Ranahan, S Buckley; S McSweeney, S Kelly, D Neville.
C Moran for McCarthy (30 mins), S Flanagan for White (44, inj), J Naughton for Ranahan (53).
A Kissane (Waterford).