Both managers - John Kiely of Limerick and Cork’s Damien Irwin - identified the visitors’ electrifying start as the key to the result. Limerick had an early goal from man of the match Ronan Lynch and the lead they built in the opening stages, as much as nine points at one stage, gave them a cushion until the very end.
With an attendance of 3,238 looking on, it seemed likely Limerick would overrun Cork early on, with Pat Ryan hitting three points for them in the opening five minutes. The visitors were 1-7 to 0-1 ahead before ten minutes had gone - Ronan Lynch the goalscorer. The men in green and white took over early and as befitted a team laden with All-Ireland medallists in the grade - as well as a sprinkling of All-Ireland club medallists with Na Piarsaigh - they kept Cork at bay with ease.
The modern game was visible in all the odd alignments: Limerick’s senior strike forward, Cian Lynch, spent much of the first half in the company of his Cork counterpart, Shane Kingston; the Patrickswell man operated as a playmaker, picking out targets up the field with his easily identifiable striking style.
The Leesiders were struggling to find their range, and at the end of the first quarter they were 1-8 to 0-3 in arrears. Limerick’s physically powerful forwards were able to keep the ball in the opposition half, something the home side couldn’t do. Barry Nash - playing in the half-forward line, though named at full-forward - and David Dempsey were particularly effective in the middle third for Limerick, as was Ronan Lynch at centre-field.
However, six points by the home side - a snap shot by Pa O’Callaghan the pick of them - cut the deficit to 1-9 to 0-8; Peter Casey stopped the rot with a Limerick point on 26 minutes. Cork still had time to hit four more points before the break, and Limerick needed Cian Lynch to range forward before the half-time whistle for a point to keep his side that goal ahead, 1-12 to 0-12.
Limerick restarted with four quick points to stretch their lead to seven again. Two of those were Ronan Lynch frees, and with that player back in defence, Cork struggled again to make inroads up front.
It took the Rebels 14 minutes to get on the scoreboard, and by then Limerick were well in control. Cork needed a goal to have any chance but Limerick weren’t in a charitable mood at the back: sub. Oisin O’Reilly’s goal with ten minutes to go killed the game as a contest; though Kingston and Coleman got consolation goals for Cork with time almost up, O’Reilly was still able to strike again with another goal in injury time.
Limerick were far too good for the home side last evening. For Cork supporters there was a sense of anticipation, with the likes of Pa O’Callaghan, one of the top forwards in the local club scene, and the promising Shane Kingston on show. O’Callaghan impressed when moved to centre-forward, but Kingston - switched to full-forward - rarely found room to manoeuvre.
In the opposite corner, experienced senior men like Cian Lynch showed the value of operating in that grade; while Ronan Lynch was the stand-out performer on show, the likes of Nash and the Morrisseys also showed their power, and Tipperary will have it all to do to halt the Limerick juggernaut based on last night’s display.
S. Kingston (1-6, 5 frees); M. Coleman (1-2, 1 65, 1 free); P. O’Callaghan (0-3); N. Cashman, C. Twomey, D. Noonan, A. Spillane (0-1).
R. Lynch (1-8, 6 frees, 1 65, 1 sideline); O. O’Reilly (2-0); P. Ryan (0-3); C. Lynch, D. O’Donovan, B. Nash (0-2); P. Casey, T. Morrissey (0-1).
P. Collins (Ballinhassig)(c); D. Browne (Kanturk), S. O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), D. Griffin (Carrigaline); R. Cahalane (Ballymartle), M. Coleman (Blarney), C. Twomey (Newtownshandrum); N. Cashman (Blackrock), D. Noonan (Glen Rovers); D. Fitzgibbon (Charleville), S. Kingston (Douglas), P. O’Callaghan (Ballyhea); A. Spillane (Castlelyons), T. O’Mahony (Newtownshandrum), L. Meade (Newcestown).
D. Lee (Na Piarsaigh) for Cashman (28); C. O’Leary (Valley Rovers) for Noonan (40); M. O’Halloran (Blackrock) for O’Mahony (45); C. Cormack (Blackrock) for Meade (50); M. O’Connor (Douglas) for Lee (55).
E. McNamara (Doon), M. Casey (Na Piarsaigh), R. English (Doon), S. Flanagan (Feoghanagh); C. Ryan (Pallagreen), R. Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), A. La Touche Cosgrave (Monaleen); D. O’Donovan (Doon), P. Ryan (Doon); C. Lynch (Patrickswell), T. Morrissey (Ahane), D. Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); A. Gillane (Patrickswell), B. Nash (South Liberties), P. Casey (Na Piarsaigh).
B. Murphy (Doon) for Dillane (HT); L. Lyons (Monaleen) for O’Donovan (blood, 42-44); O. O’Reilly (Kilmallock) for T. Morrissey (50); L. Lyons for Nash (55); J. Quaid (Effin) for Dempsey, (59).
R. McGann (Clare).
A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of the late Jim Forbes of the Cork County Board.