TJ Ryan’s confirmation that Donal O’Grady had “officially retired” from inter-county hurling was the biggest development from yesterday’s Munster SHL between Limerick and Cork in chilly Mallow.
Limerick got three goals in an entertaining win but the news of O’Grady’s retirement, having captained Limerick to Munster final success in 2013, is likely to be the main reason the game sticks in the memory of the 1,185 present.
The visitors had the breeze in the first half and used it well.
They enjoyed an early lead, Declan Hannon hitting three frees and Cian Lynch and Graeme Mulcahy pointing from play — two good Patrick Cronin points were Cork’s answer: 0-5 to 0-2 on ten minutes.
The scoring rate dropped then, Conor Lehane hitting a Cork point, with Lynch and Mulcahy replying.
Those Limerick players then combined for a fine goal, a superb Lynch pass freeing Mulcahy, who finished emphatically.
A Hannon point just afterwards made it 1-8 to 0-3 on 20 minutes.
As the half drew to a conclusion Cork were whittling away at the Limerick lead with O’Sulllivan (two frees) and William Leahy points, but a late Hannon free made it 0-7 to 1-11 at the break.
Cork restarted brightly, with points from Lehane, O’Sullivan, Leahy and sub. Patrick Horgan in the opening four minutes of the second half.
Limerick took ten minutes to score, with a Hannon free, and then a terrific David Reidy run opened up the Cork defence — Reidy placed Hannon close to goal, and he netted, giving Limerick a two-goal advantage.
Cork hit back with points from Cronin, O’Sullivan (65) and Paul Haughney; Limerick’s Paul Ryan hit a good point from distance, making it 2-13 to 0-15 at the end of the third quarter.
With the game up for grabs a sharpness came into the exchanges, but Limerick had a decisive intervention — Paul Ryan made ground down the right before passing to Darragh O’Donovan, who goaled.
Lehane’s point on the resumption made it 3-14 to 0-16, but Cork needed a goal to have any chance of winning, and that goal never came.
Afterwards Ryan described the proceedings as a “typical January game”.
“We were seven up at half-time,” added Ryan. “We wanted it, with the wind.
“We showed a bit of heart, a bit of character, and we got that. 3-17 is good scoring any time of year, and any time you come to Cork and win you’d be happy too. We have a lot of young fellas in this year.
“I like this competition because you’ve a couple of games, there’ll be different names in our team tomorrow night, so it’s building for the future and for February 13 at home to Wexford. We want to make sure we’re right for that.”
In the Cork corner those three goals were the main item discussed.
“They were the disappointing thing, and Anthony (Nash) was good for us as well,” said selector Pat Ryan.
“The (Munster) league has been good for us, we’ve been able to see a lot of players and we’re a new management team as well, but the three goals, that’s something that’s been happening to Cork for a few years and it’s something we plan to sort.
“A goal would have gotten us back into it, you could see when they got a goal our heads dropped a small bit. Something else to work on. When we finalise our panel the idea is to get a way of playing, making sure we’re defensively sound.
"A lot of the backs played well, there was no shortage of effort, but in fairness, Limerick had some very good players and they took advantage of us at times.”
Conclusions for those in attendance? In the green and white corner last year’s break-out star Cian Lynch looked as lively as ever, showing real vision to find Mulcahy for his first-half goal.
The youngster from Patrickswell also looked a little broader across the shoulders, which augurs well for the level of attention he’s likely to face later in the year.
Limerick also had Seamus Hickey and James Ryan’s usual calm efficiency to depend on, though both managements will be aware that the strength of the breeze gave each team a half in which to dominate.
For Cork supporters there was the stationing of Shane O’Neill at wing- rather than corner-back, which may nod to a different posting come the summer-time. Or may not. Spring has yet to arrive, after all.
Paudie O’Sullivan (1 65, 5 frees) (0-7); P. Cronin (0-4); C. Lehane (0-3); W. Leahy (0-2), P. Haughney, P. Horgan (0-1 each).
D. Hannon (0-1 65, 0-7 ffs) (1-9); G. Mulcahy (1-2); D. O’Donovan (1-0), C. Lynch (0-3); P. Ryan, D. Reidy, P. Browne (0-1) each.
A. Nash, Pat O’Sullivan, P. O’Mahony, C. O’Sullivan, S. O’Neill, C. Twomey, N. Cashman, P. Haughney, C. Cormac, D. Brosnan, Paudie O’Sullivan, P. Cronin, L. Meade, W. Leahy, C. Lehane Subs: P. Horgan for Meade (HT); W. Egan for Brosnan (48); C. Murphy for Pat O’Sullivan (55); D. Cahalane for Cormac (60); P. O’Rourke for Leahy (65).
B. Hennessy, S. Finn, D. Morrissey, R. English, S. O’Brien, B. O’Connell, S. Hickey, J. Ryan, P. Ryan, D. O’Donovan, C. Lynch, D. Reidy, T. O’Brien, D. Hannon, G. Mulcahy.
R. McCarthy and J. Fitzgibbon for D. Morrissey and T. O’Brien (48); P. Browne for Mulcahy (60); W. McNamara for O’Connell (60); J. Riordan for J. Ryan (66).
T. Walsh (Waterford).