A scoreline that wouldn’t be out of place when these two face off at this Páirc Uí Chaoimh venue in less than 11 weeks’ time but that’s where the parallels end.
This was anything but a free-flowing game, which was refereed with a zeal many of the players would like to have shown in their performances.
Approximately 40 frees were awarded — 26 of them scored— in an affair that didn’t warrant such a tally and it was a count which seriously diminished the spectacle for the 11,212 in attendance.
Seán Cleere has adopted a far more laissez-faire approach than this in the past and the hope is he will not be so prominent again.
“Let’s be honest about it, the tempo and the intensity of the game was only a six,” remarked John Kiely. “There’s a lot of room for both sides to raise the decibel level in terms of intensity. When we come back here in May and there’s 40,000-odd outside there it’ll be a different ball game for both sides in terms of intensity. It (the refereeing) didn’t help the game today; it was very stop-start.”
Despite seeing a six-point half-time lead evaporate and transform into a three-point deficit midway through the second half, Limerick deserved the two points. Shane Kingston’s goal might have come against the run of play but by the time substitute Aidan Walsh collected Patrick Horgan’s long free and smashed the ball to the net in the 53rd minute the momentum was with Cork.
Although Limerick’s response was solid, the home team led by a point with four minutes of normal time remaining when Horgan sent over his 15th free. But they didn’t trouble the umpire at the City End again.
Two minutes later, Kyle Hayes levelled matters with his second point of the game. A Diarmaid Byrnes 65 followed in the 69th minute and in additional time Aaron Gillane punished a foul on Darren O’Connell to send over his 11th free.
Apart from the opening 10 minutes, there was no stage in the opening half where it appeared it would be anything but straightforward for the Division 1 champions. With their first 11 shots, they scored 11 points and should have led by more than six at the break, 0-17 to 0-11.
Exasperation with a decision not to give Kingston a free compelled Cork selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan to approach Cleere only for the official to direct him to the stand.
“He was frustrated,” said manager Kieran Kingston about O’Sullivan. “There were two charges into the face, which he brought to the officials’ attention. I couldn’t hear exactly what was said, but that then leaves us disadvantaged.”
But the biggest concern on Kingston’s mind at the break was the fact his team had shown Limerick too much respect. The pressure Cork put on most of those opening 11 shots by their opponents was minimal.
“We stood back and admired Limerick, the Munster and hurling league champions. We stood back and let them hurl in the first half and that was disappointing. We regrouped in the second half, said we’d throw off the shackles and play our own game. From a performance point of view we’re much happier with the scone half but we are disappointed we didn’t win the game because that’s what we came here for.”
Outscoring Limerick 2-7 to 0-4 for the first 18 minutes of the second half and with Walsh adding a real presence having come on for Luke Meade, Cork turned up to the party only to be bettered 0-8 to 0-3 after Walsh’s goal.
Kiely felt the substitutes made a difference. “We had been very solid in the first half, in control for long periods, but they were going to come with their purple patch and they really upped their intensity levels in the first 15 minutes of the second half and we didn’t really respond at that particular time. We didn’t get our hands on the ball, we misplaced a few hand-passes and our touch just wasn’t on the money. We just dropped off.
“So the challenge came, they took the lead and we rolled the dice with a few guys coming off the bench then and got fresh legs and minds in there.
“We hadn’t had a game in three weeks and probably trained quite hard and fellas just maybe weren’t as fresh as they might have liked. The lads made a big impact coming off the bench so I was particularly pleased with that aspect.”
P. Horgan (0-17, 15 frees, 1 65); S. Kingston (1-1); A. Walsh (1-0); D. Dalton (0-2, 1 sideline), B. Cooper (0-1).
A. Gillane (0-13, 11 frees); D. O’Donovan (0-3); C. Lynch, S. Flanagan, P. O’Loughlin, K. Hayes (0-2 each); W. O’Donoghue, D. Dempsey, G. Hegarty, T. Morrissey. D. Byrnes (65) (0-1 each).
P. Collins; S. O’Leary-Hayes, E. Cadogan, C. Spillane; M. Coleman, R. Downey, T. O’Mahony; B. Cooper, D. Fitzgibbon; L. Meade, R. O’Flynn, S. Harnedy; D. Dalton, S. Kingston, P. Horgan (c).
A. Walsh for L. Meade (h-t); C. Lehane for D. Dalton (57); C. Joyce for T. O’Mahony (66); C. Cahalane for R. O’Flynn (70).
N. Quaid; S. Finn, M. Casey, A. Costello, D. Byrnes, D. Hannon (c), P. O’Loughlin; C. Lynch, W. O’Donoghue, K. Hayes, G. Hegarty, D. O’Donovan; A. Gillane, D. Dempsey, S. Flanagan.
T. Morrissey for G. Hegarty, G. Mulcahy for D. Dempsey (both 56); D. Reidy for C. Lynch (60); B. Nash for P. O’Loughlin (64); D. O’Connell for S. Flanagan (67).
S. Cleere (Kilkenny).