Cork 2-6 Limerick 0-11
Limerick came close to shocking hot favourites Cork in a pulsating Munster SFC final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
The Rebels trailed for most of the game, and needed a Daniel Goulding goal midway through the second half to kick-start their flagging challenge and lift their 36th provincial football title.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s men will take immense credit and encouragement from this performance, but Cork’s standing as leading contenders for the All-Ireland title may have to be re-evaluated.
Goals from Donnacha O’Connor and Goulding proved decisive in the end, but Conor Counihan’s side were somewhat fortunate to get the better of a battling Limerick side which performed with a refreshing energy, showing no fear of the reputations that Cork brought into the game.
In Ian O’Riordan and skipper Seanie Buckley displayed awesome finishing to complement the team’s solid work ethic, hitting seven points between them in a first half dominated by the Treaty men.
Limerick’s energy had Cork in trouble throughout the first half, with the defence closing down the Rebel attackers with stoic determination.
Ryan kicked four and Buckley hit three, all from play and many the result of foraging from Ger Collins, with defender Pa Ranaghan also driving forward to contribute a classy score.
Following James Masters’ opening point, Cork struggled to create scoring opportunities, and were redpeatedly thwarted by full back Shane Gallagher and dual men Mark O’Riordan and Stephen Lucey.
Gallagher was penalised for a foul on Donnacha O’Callaghan, who tucked away the resultant penalty in the 14th minute, but the Rebels managed just one further point in the first half.
Limerick continued to hit the target, and could have had a goal when Stephen Kelly released Stephen Lavin, but the wing back pulled his shot wide at the far post.
Limerick deservedly led by 0-8 to 1-2 at the break, and continued to suffocate the Rebel attackers after the break
O’Connor and Daniel Goulding both floated 45s wide of the mark, and a frustrated Cork side couldn’t buy a score.
They did finally end a 37 minute barren spell when goalkeeper Sean Kiely pushed Goulding’s shot over the bar, and a moment later the same player drilled home a superb 53rd minute goal to bring his side level.
Graham Canty rose to the challenge, and did the spadework for the Goulding score that put the Rebels back in front for the first time since the seventh minute.
Lavin and substitute Colm O’Neill swapped scores, and Cork were still a point to the good going into the final 10 minutes.
O’Connor stretched the lead from a free, and with the Cork defence now getting the measure of a tiring Limerick attack, they held out for the most slender of title wins.
Cork: A Quirke, R Carey, M Shields, K O’Connor,G Spillane, G Canty, B O’Regan, A O'Connor, N Murphy, P. Kelly, P O'Neill, P Kerrigan, D Goulding (1-3), J Masters (0-1), D O'Connor (1-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1f).
Subs: P Kissane for O’Regan (26), C O’Neill (0-1) for Masters (49), A Walsh for Spillane (58), P O’Flynn for Kerrigan (61), F Goold for O’Connor (63)
Limerick: S Kiely, J McCarthy, S Gallagher, M O'Riordan, S Lavin (0-1), S Lucey, P Ranaghan (0-1), J O'Donovan, J Galvin, P Browne, C Joyce-Power, S Buckley (0-3), G. Collins (0-1), S. Kelly (0-1), I. Ryan (0-4).
Subs: K O’Callaghan for Joyce-Power (33), J Stokes for O’Callaghan, A Lane for Gallagher (62), E Hogan for Browne
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).