Substitute Liam O’Sullivan was the scoring hero in the finale and wing-forward Ronan Lynch, still eligible for the U16 grade, was the scoring hero for the majority of the game as Limerick enjoyed a successful trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night by claiming a victory over Cork in the opening round of the Munster MHC.
In a frenetic spell of action in injury-time a Lynch free edged Limerick in front before Cork centre-forward Dillon Cahill tied the teams once more when he raised a white flag. Yet O’Sullivan had the critical say with the Doon youngster’s shot just squeezing inside the upright and Limerick soaked up a late barrage of Cork pressure to hold on.
The result consigns Cork to a play-off tie against Kerry in Austin Stack Park next Saturday night at 7pm where they will seek to preserve their interest in the campaign.
Limerick manager Shane Fitzgibbon said: “It’s always special to come down to Cork any time and win. I have total belief in my own players and they kept fighting. They wanted this very badly. We won the battle tonight but the war goes on.
“We’re only into a Munster semi-final and we’ve to navigate the Leaving Cert as well as doing a lot of work over the next couple of months.”
Limerick were grateful to the outstanding marksmanship of Ronan Lynch during this game. The Na Piarsaigh youngster impressed for Ardscoil Rís in the Dr Harty Cup earlier this year and with two further years of inter-county minor hurling ahead of him, his 0-11 haul last night was hugely impressive.
“Ronan is a serious talent,” admitted Fitzgibbon. “He’s a superb hurler with a great attitude and a great family behind him to support him. But there have been many false dawns in Limerick as regards to players. Ronan has had a great night tonight and gave a special performance but now must drive on.”
The match was highly competitive in the opening half yet Limerick’s excellent deliveries into their attack and greater physical edge helped them into a 0-7 to 0-5 lead by the 23rd minute.
Limerick could have been further ahead but for a fantastic save by Patrick Collins when Bryan Griffin lashed in a fierce shot in the 25th minute.
Cork battled back well before the break overcoming the loss of key players Ryan Dineen and Peter Kelleher through injury. Pa O’Callaghan grabbed some lovely points to ensure they were level at the interval at 0-8 apiece.
Limerick made a decisive burst in the second half as they took control to enjoy a 0-14 to 0-9 lead with 10 minutes remaining but then Cork produced their best spell of the game. Substitutes James O’Brien and Anthony Spillane made notable impacts before Cork finally found the net through Spillane.
Michael Cahalane, influential when switched to attack, was the creator and after O’Callaghan and goalkeeper Darragh Stapleton both missed the ball, Castlelyons attacker Spillane was on hand to whip the ball home. But Cork were unable to move ahead, with O’Sullivan grabbing the winner for Limerick.
Rebels boss Pat Kenneally admitted: “We’re terribly disappointed.
“We now have Kerry next weekend and we’re absolutely thrilled to have another opportunity. The lads know a few did not play up to standard but we’ll work hard to improve.”
Scorers for Limerick: R Lynch 0-11 (8f, 1 sl, 1 65), K O’Brien, B Griffin (1f), B Finn, C Lynch, L O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: P O’Callaghan 0-5 (3f), D Cahill 0-3, A Spillane 1-0, J O’Brien 0-2, B O’Connell, J Cashman 0-1 each.
LIMERICK: D Stapleton; S Irwin, R English, J Carrig; D Byrnes, B O’Connell, E Fitzgerald; B Finn, K Cleary; R Lynch, D Condron, E O’Farrell; K O’Brien, B Griffin, C Lynch.
Subs: D Donovan for Fitzgerald (ht), A La Touche Cosgrave for O’Farrell (36), D Dee for Cleary (38), P Ryan for B Griffin (55), L O’Sullivan for O’Brien (58, inj).
CORK: P Collins; S Murphy, K O’Connor, A Dennehy; K McIntyre, M Cahalane, P Fitzgerald; C Twomey, B O’Connell; J Cashman, D Cahill, K O’Neill; A Sheehan, P O’Callaghan, R Cahalane.
Subs: D Mangan for Twomey, J O’Brien for R Cahalane (both ht), J McCarthy for Murphy (43, inj), A Spillane for Sheehan (48), T Horgan for Cashman (60).
Referee: D Fox (Clare).
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