Cork escape to victory

Limerick 0-12 Cork 2-09
OH, the madness of it all. We travelled to Limerick in a sleepy stupor and left it speechless and stunned. Who said it would take a Munster final to wake us?

Conor Counihan’s Championship bow as coach proved a lucky one, and if he can retain that facility for getting the rub of the green, it may prove a greater ally than any tactical

masterplan. Limerick should be gutted at losing yesterday’s Munster SFC semi final, and will head to the qualifiers a broken team. Cork were brutal but given the likely loss for Kerry of

Declan O’Sullivan and Paul Galvin, head into the Munster final with a spring in their step. Mad, isn’t it?

Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s side have given Cork a free gratis examination of their frailties. The losers in the Gaelic Grounds played all the football and took all the risks. They exposed Cork’s midfield and half back line. Even when they led by three points in dead time, they careered forward in search of the clinching score. If they had shown inclination to close up shop, they’d be celebrating a famous win and in a Munster final.

Conor Counihan and his selectors have three difficult weeks of decisions but in keeping with Cork’s tradition of making life as difficult as possible for inter-county managers, most of the team will be back with their clubs this week for Championship action. They’ll then have a week to work on tactics and wind down for the last seven days. Can you really see that much of an improvement?

In John Galvin, Limerick had the game’s finest player, but that can’t excuse the mauling Cork’s midfield took. Only when Pearse O’Neill went to centre-field did Cork manage any semblance of parity. The consequence of that was an insufficient supply of ball into the one line — the inside forwards — that looked capable of causing damage. John Hayes was Cork’s top forward, and Daniel Goulding also looked capable. But they were starved.

Stephen Kelly frightened the life out of Cork’s tentative and tense defence, where Ger Spillane looked in real bother. The Ballygarvan man has an admirable work ethic but questions must be asked about him in such a pivotal position. No 6 is a playmaker, a leader and a stopper, and it’s doubtful whether Spillane ticks each of those boxes.

With the exception of Hayes, O’Neill and Graham Canty, no-one in red kept up their end at the Gaelic Grounds. Serious concern there.

The most devastating indictment of their performance surrounded the sending off of Seanie Buckley for Limerick. While Cork waited for someone to up the pace, Limerick swarmed all over them, and surged into a winning position. Cork had no answers on the pitch or on the sideline. Now Gerry Kinneavy made some really strange decisions in the second half, most of them in Limerick’s favour, but any suggestions that Cork would ease away from their game opponents with the extra man quickly evaporated.

Entering the last ten minutes, there was only one team forcing the pace, and they were being roared on by the home crowd. I haven’t seen statistics, but Limerick’s dominance of possession was a chastening experience for a larger than expected Cork following.

James Masters was introduced to no great effect, simply because there was no possession worth the name finding its way into the Cork’s forwards.

Maybe Cork were as stunned as myself by their own inability to shake themselves from the stupor, but that does a disservice to a Limerick side that played all the football, and utterly deserved a victory.

Maybe it’s karma. In 1997, a Cork side I was peripherally involved with, was stunned by a late, lucky Martin Daly goal against Clare in Ennis. They didn’t deserve to win then and Cork didn’t deserve to win yesterday. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than plucky.


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