FOR the third time in this year’s championship, Cork manager Conor Counihan had seen his side let a lead slip, allowing their opponents to seize a draw at the end of 70 minutes of football.
The first time was in Killarney in the Munster semi-final, then a week later Kerry again pulled off a comeback before winning in extra time, but on Saturday night it was Cork who had the extra power in the legs to emerge victorious.
While pleased to have reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals, Counihan admitted that the additional 20 minutes of football was something that his side could have done without.
“Absolutely,” he sighed. “Four or five points up, we looked to have the thing shut up. Maybe we missed a few other opportunities that we should have got and didn’t close the game out.
“But look, that’s the name of the game, you play to the whistle. We lost a bit of focus for a minute or two and, in fairness to Limerick, they took their opportunities. I suppose we could have done without it (extra time) but it’s done, and we have to move on.”
Cork began the game with three changes from the side listed in the match programme, as Noel O’Leary, Derek Kavanagh and Paul Kerrigan came in for John Miskella, Alan O’Connor and Fintan Goold.
While Goold was fit, coming on in both normal time and extra time, Miskella and O’Connor were both deemed unfit to start the game, as Counihan revealed, though O’Connor was introduced to good effect.
“John Miskella had a shoulder injury on Wednesday night so that ruled him out,” Counihan said.
“Alan O’Connor had a bit of a bout (of flu) again during the week so that was a bit of a problem.
“To be fair on that, we had fellas who came in tonight and performed very well. There were enough fellas who had been waiting on the fringes for a while so that was very satisfying to see that.”
The use of a big panel of players will surely be vital again next weekend, with Cork having, effectively, played three and a half games over the past three weeks, and Counihan knows that such exertions could take a toll.
“It’s a factor alright,” he said, “and our level of performance there tonight wouldn’t be satisfactory enough to get through an All-Ireland quarter-final. Having said that, we’re still there and, with the bit of bottle we showed there tonight, we’re always there with a fighting chance.”
With three victories on the trot behind them, have Counihan and his selectors learned a lot about their team off Broadway?
“I suppose we have,” he said, “but fellas have been in and out with injuries and other fellas have been coming back from injuries, so we haven’t had a full squad to pick from yet. Hopefully we can get closer to that and get everyone fit.”
Cork half-forward Pearse O’Neill credited Limerick’s display and dismissed any notions that Cork were complacent ahead of the match.
“Not at all,” he insisted. “We’ve played them the last few years and if we were any way naïve coming up here it was stupid. We weren’t one bit naïve, we knew what we were in for, and we’re absolutely delighted going back, I’d have taken anything coming out of here. We’ve got the win, extra time doesn’t matter, we’re delighted.”
O’Neill also felt that the additional 20 minutes of football would not be a huge factor in the quarter-finals.
“We’ll be fine,” he vowed. “We’re training long enough for it, if we can’t play another 20 minutes…
“It’s obviously not ideal but I would have taken it before we came up here tonight.”
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