For the second time in six days, there was no winner in an affair involving Cork, only the sport itself. John matched John as Meyler and Kiely’s men served up a game that will go a long way to giving permanency to this three-year experimental Championship structure.
Again, Cork saw a one-point advantage cancelled out in the dying embers but there will be clemency shown on this occasion, this having been their third game in as many weeks. Limerick were down a man for over 50 minutes and three points in the 33rd minute but were three to the good by the 57th minute.
Thirteen days previously, John Kiely spoke of how
confident he was of Limerick seeing off Tipperary long before the final whistle. He was almost as assured his players would absorb the 26th-minute red card shown to Aaron Gillane for two wild jabs at Seán O’Donoghue as Cork felt the effects of another belter.
“We did seize the initiative but that was probably always going to happen in the second half. This was their third game so the real pressure was probably going to come on in the last 20 minutes. They responded well when we took the lead as well, they came back and took the initiative and got the momentum and took the lead,” Kiely said.
Cork were good for their
0-14 to 0-12 lead at the break but, facing into a setting sun, found themselves pegged back to parity in the 41st minute. Then up stepped Horgan to deliver the only goal of the game, his deliberate but stealthy movement from taking a long-range free over a minute
earlier pivotal in ensuring he was unmarked when Seamus Harnedy found him.
It was timely — what goal isn’t — but especially for a side that were flagging, Meyler admitted. “We kind of fatigued a bit at the start of the second half. It’s just concentration — we lost our way a small bit. We lost it against Tipp last Sunday and lost it again. We need to address that and we can’t concede (like that) especially when we have an extra man for the whole of the second half. So that’s a small bit disappointing.”
The scoreline read 1-17 to 0-17 before Limerick hit four points on the bounce, three of them from Seamus Flanagan who looked unmarkable even for a player of Damien Cahalane’s rising stature. Tom Morrissey had sent over a couple before him and Kiely couldn’t say enough about the duo.
“They’re improving with every game, that’s what I like, right throughout the year they’ve improved from game to game to game. They can take an awful lot of confidence in that, that there’s huge capacity for them to keep moving in the direction that they’re going.
“I thought that they played really well up there, and quite a lonely job that they were doing. With Cork willing to hit so many short puck-outs, it was sapping on their energy levels, to get to the man that was getting the ball and trying to force him to hit it long. It was a very selfless and honest effort.”
Another belt of scores, this time three, from Morrissey (free), Cian Lynch, and Kyle Hayes, had Limerick three up with 13 minutes of normal time remaining. The difference remained three in the 66th minute before Conor Lehane, Fitzgibbon, and Horgan reclaimed the initiative for Cork to level up matters, much to Meyler’s relief.
“Midway through the second half, I was worried. We weren’t going well, we weren’t going right and we were making sloppy mistakes, turnovers and that, but we rectified that. Our character stood up — Fitzy (Darragh Fitzgibbon) got a good point, (Conor) Lehane got a great point, Hoggy (Pa Horgan)... and that’s what you want. (Anthony) Nash showed leadership to organise the backs.”
As exemplified by Limerick substitute Pat Ryan’s stubbed goal attempt, the final exchanges were frenetic as the 34,607 honoured to be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh ducked and swayed with every puck. In the 69th minute, the ever-enthusiastic Fitzgibbon sent Cork into the lead for the first time in almost 20 minutes. A long distance Diarmuid Byrnes free cancelled it out but not before Horgan was punishing a foul by Mike Casey on himself two minutes into injury-time, bringing his tally to 1-11.
A minute later and Kyle Hayes fired over the ultimate equaliser. And still there was time for drama, Seán Finn’s intervention, to block Harnedy, the true definition of Limerick’s defiance.
“Massive,” recalled Kiely. “It was an amazing block. Listen, there was great courage shown, great effort, and commitment. They’re a top-class bunch of lads, we’ll go away and we’ll try to recover as quickly as we can now, we’ll go at it again next week.”
The green hoards will turn up to the Gaelic Grounds in their droves this Sunday as the red sea will depart for Thurles seven days later; both intoxicated by hurling’s charm. It was an evening when the house won but
P. Horgan (1-11, 0-9 frees, 0-1 65); D. Fitzgibbon (0-4); C. Lehane (0-3); D. Kearney, S. Kingston (0-2 each); M. Coleman, C. Spillane, L. Meade (0-1 each).
T. Morrissey (0-9, 5 frees); S. Flanagan (0-5); C. Lynch (0-3); G. Mulcahy, D. O’Donovan, D. Byrnes (frees), K. Hayes (0-2 each); A. Gillane (free), G. Hegarty, D. Morrissey (0-1 each).
A. Nash; S. O’Donoghue, C. Spillane, D. Cahalane; M. Ellis, C. Joyce, M. Coleman; D. Fitzgibbon, B. Cooper; D. Brosnan, D. Kearney, C. Lehane; S. Harnedy (c), P. Horgan, S. Kingston.
T. O’Mahony for S. O’Donoghue, L. Meade for D. Brosnan (both h-t); M. Cahalane for S. Kingston (60); J. Coughlan for C. Lehane (70+3).
N. Quaid; R. English, M. Casey, S. Finn; D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), D. Morrissey; D. O’Donovan, C. Lynch; T. Morrissey, K. Hayes, G. Hegarty; S. Flanagan, A. Gillane, G. Mulcahy.
W. O’Donoghue for D. Hannon (inj 7); D. Dempsey for G. Hegarty (55); P. Browne for D. O’Donovan (61); B. Murphy for G. Mulcahy (62); P. Ryan for S. Flanagan (inj, 64).
A. Gillane (straight, 26).
J. Owens (Wexford).