ON an evening when news of the shock retirement of Andrew O’Shaughnessy made its way around the well-populated stand in the Gaelic Grounds at this Munster minor hurling quarter-final, could it be that Limerick hurling has already found a suitable replacement – perhaps even two or three?
This was a very impressive win by a very impressive Limerick outfit, but no one was more influential than powerful centre-forward Shane Dowling.
When he went off after just nine minutes, having aggravated a shoulder injury picked, he had already notched all three Limerick points, putting them 0-3 to 0-1 ahead.
In the second-half, however, with the popped shoulder back in place, Shane was back, and added a further four points. He has size, power, but he also has hurling, great skills, and an eye for a score.
He wasn’t on his own, however, not by a long way. In his absence wing-forward David Reidy from the Dromin-Athlacca club stepped up to collect the slack, took over the free-taking duties with aplomb, finished the game with four points. And there was more.
Probably the guy who looked most like Shaughs (as he was universally known in Limerick) was corner-forward Jack Aherne; a bundle of energy, great balance, beautiful striker off either side, expert on sidelines, Jack too has an eye for the finish, ended the first-half with 1-2 from play, helped enormously to set Limerick on their way. In those three alone, up front, Limerick had three dangerous forwards.
The same could not be said of Cork, but alas, on this night at least, their attack was found seriously wanting. Three points from play was all they managed, 12 points in total, on a lovely evening for hurling and with a plentiful supply of possession. Now they’re condemned to the back-door route.
Even in Dowling’s enforced absence Limerick continued to dominate the first half, built on that early superiority to lead at the break by a goal, 1-7 to 0-7. That goal, however, was of the fortunate variety, a long sideline cut from the left side that hopped in the square, where a little confusion between corner-back Killian Burke and keeper Gary Minihane allowed the ball cross the line. Most of Cork’s points were from placed balls, free-taker Robert O’Shea with four, corner-forward Kevin O’Keeffe with one from close range, wing-forward Cormac Murphy and wing-back Cormac Walsh getting the only points from play. The towering Murphy was an outstanding ball-winner, though his distribution left him down somewhat.
Into the second-half, and with Dowling now restored to the centre-forward slot, Limerick were purring. A succession of points — Dowling (4), Reidy and wing-forward Mike Fitzgibbon one each – had them five points ahead in the 54th minute (1-13 to 0-11, O’Shea with three Cork frees, and a point by corner-forward Alan Cadogan), when giant full-forward Brendan O’Connor pounced on a breaking ball, notched Limerick’s second goal. Game over, sub Pa O’Callaghan’s late free mere consolation for Cork.
Scorers for Limerick: S Dowling 0-7 (0-4f); J Aherne 1-2; D Reidy 0-4 (0-2f); B O’Connor 1-0; M Fitzgerald 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: R O’Shea 0-7 (all frees); A Cadogan, C Murphy, C Walsh, K O’Keeffe (f), P O’Callaghan (f), 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: PJ Hall; S Irwin, B O’Connell, B Murphy; L Ryan, C Keogh, B Lynch; D Morrissey, D Dee; D Reidy, S Dowling, B O’Connor; K O’Brien, M Fitzgibbon, J Aherne.
Subs: E O’Farrell for Dowling (inj. 9); Dowling for O’Farrell (30); J Mullins for O’Brien (51); J Lenihan for Fitzgibbon (56); C O’Riordan for Dee (inj. 60).
CORK: G Minihane; K Burke, C Spillane, A Dennehy; C Walsh, D Sweetman, K McIntyre; R O’Shea, C Buckley; S O’Keeffe, D Cahill, C Murphy; A Cadogan, J Fitzgerald, K O’Keeffe.
Subs: P O’Callaghan for O’Keeffe (38); C McSweeney for Buckley (40); C Cullinane for Fitzgerald (49); P White for O’Shea (53).
Referee: D Fox (Clare).
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