A corner turned for Cork? Park that debate for three weeks

The old Mike Tyson deadpan came to mind as Limerick’s Munster final ambitions were obliterated in the opening 12 minutes of Saturday’s SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.

A corner turned for Cork? Park that debate for three weeks

The old Mike Tyson deadpan came to mind as Limerick’s Munster final ambitions were obliterated in the opening 12 minutes of Saturday’s SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” the Brownsville bomber once told a reporter.

“People were asking me 'What’s going to happen?' He's going to give you a lot of lateral movement.

"He's going to move, he's going to dance. He's going to do this, do that."

Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get hit. Then they stop in fear and freeze.’”

There’s never a rounded answer to the perennial question in the wake of these 21-point landslides - were the victors ruthless or the vanquished out of their depth?

The stock answer is a bit of both.

Billy Lee’s visitors were well off it on the night, but his Cork counterpart Ronan McCarthy is in no position to be turning up his nose at championship wins, irrespective of means or margin.

“I can’t remember the last time we dominated a game to that extent,” he said after.

I couldn’t tell you the last time Cork played a game which they dominated in all the key facets – we played good football and defensively were sound enough. We will take it.

Kerry’s shapeless performance in Ennis has already been taken as an indicator that the June 22 provincial final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be a meaningful tussle, but we’ve been here before with Cork.

Anyone who dares to suggest a corner turned does so at their peril.

It was noticeable though that McCarthy name-checked championship debutant Aidan Browne and rookie forward Stephen Sherlock afterwards, and also agreed that another freshman, Nathan Walsh had played ‘really well’.

A year ago, sifting through the wreckage of their Munster final mauling by Kerry, McCarthy reckoned he knew the corrective course required.

His strategy is now apparent – give the willing young lads their head.

“We need battlers,” the Cork manager said, “who will fight for every ball. That’s all we ask, that’s all the public ask too – that every guy gives his all.

"I think we are building a group of people who will do that.”

Those nascent talents will face a different set of challenges in three weeks, and it is impossible to employ anything from Saturday as a metric in that respect.

Ruairi Deane of Cork in action against Colm McSweeney and Iain Corbett of Limerick. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ruairi Deane of Cork in action against Colm McSweeney and Iain Corbett of Limerick. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

What is on offer is a collection of vignettes from a rout – the sharpness of Brian Hurley, the power running of Ruairi Deane and the sense – only a sense at this stage – that there is a better cohesion to the side with and without the ball.

Three times in the first half Cork went from end to end to point.

Limerick, on the other hand, scored a miserly two points from play, and their keeper Donal O’Sullivan top scored with three successful 45’s.

After 12 minutes the Shannonsiders were 3-4 to no score behind, and it was the 27th minute before the registered a point via full forward Seamus O’Carroll.

Ronan McCarthy hasn’t had many comfortable days on the Cork sideline but he’ll hardly need telling that any player worth a county jersey can perform when he’s 14 points ahead after 12 minutes.

Perspective is important. Cork were 3-8 to 0-2 in front at the break.

“I didn’t see that coming,” McCarthy said. “Limerick were good against Tipp, but we’ve played a lot of games lately and been competitive in them.

The atmosphere in the camp was of quiet confidence. We went after the game early, and it worked for us.

"If you’re 14 points up, you can play with freedom (but) we got ourselves into that position.”

McCarthy had set his side up with Deane at centre forward, dutied to curb the attacking threat of Limerick captain Iain Corbett.

The threat never materialised and Deane was a marauding threat until his withdrawal – delivering his most complete performance since Cork’s last championship win in Thurles over a year ago.

Because of injury the Bantry man only had a two and a half week run into Saturday, so he should be up a gear again for the Munster final.

What McCarthy will look for is the likes of Stephen Cronin, Sean White, Fermoy’s Tom Clancy and Michael Hurley – all unused Saturday - to bring the hump to training this week.

They won’t be happy to see the likes of Browne and Sherlock get game time ahead of them.

Explained the Cork manager: “You don’t hand out Munster championship debuts to fellas for the sake of it. It creates competition within the panel.

"I was delighted to see (Newmarket’s) Aidan Browne make his championship debut, he has a long career ahead of him. He has the right stuff and a great attitude.

"(Stephen) Sherlock has also done really well. He was poor against Clare in the League and was used minimally since, but has knuckled down in training and has added to his game.

"The other lads? They aren’t going to take it lightly that they weren’t used.”

The likes of defender Paul Maher and midfielder Tommy Childs resisted throughout but once Mark Collins had claimed the first three points of the second half, it was an attempt in damage limitation for the visitors.

“Hugely disappointing,” was how Lee described the mauling, suggesting that his side are somewhere in between how good they were against Tipperary and how poor they were in Páirc Uí Rinn.

“I’d have fierce faith in these lads and I am not going to lose that. We could have made changes there but fellas have to grow and learn, and that’s going through the hardship like (Saturday).

"The worst thing you can do is point a Gattling Gun. That’s not me, that’s not what I am about.

"You stand with your men and support them. We just weren’t at the pace or the intensity that Cork brought to the table and that’s fine. We don’t need anyone to tell us that.

“We needed the Tipp win to get confidence, and the last three weeks is a new adventure for the lads – they are not used to a bit of notoriety after that win.

"The expectations on you rise then and you have to handle that. So now it’s about bouncing back and handling a bit of adversity.”

Scorers for Cork: M Collins (0-9, 5 frees), B Hurley (2-0), R Deane (1-0), E McSweeney (0-3), M Taylor (0-2), I Maguire, J O’Rourke, P Kerrigan, S Sherlock (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick: D. O’Sullivan (0-3, 45s), S O’Carroll (0-2), J Lee (0-1, free).

CORK: M White; N Walsh, J Loughrey, K Flahive; L O’Donovan, Thomas Clancy (Clonakilty), M Taylor; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; E McSweeney, R Deane, P Kerrigan; J O’Rourke, B Hurley, M Collins.

Subs for Cork: A Browne for Loughrey (38); S Sherlock for Hurley (44); L Connolly for O’Rourke (46); K O’Driscoll for Deane (51); K O’Donovan for Clancy (57); R O’Toole for Maguire (60).

LIMERICK: D. O’Sullivan; B Fanning, S O’Dea, P Maher; C McSweeney, I Corbett, G Brown; D Treacy, T Childs; A Enright, C Fahy, M Fitzgibbon; S McSweeney, S O’Carroll, J Lee.

Subs for Limerick: P Nash for A Enright (HT); T McCarthy for G Brown (HT); J Naughton for S McSweeney (HT); P de Brun for Cillian Fahy (44); G Noonan for C McSweeney (55); R Lynch for Fitzgibbon (56).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).

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