Both clubs had been active in refreshing their squads during the mid-term break, with Cork boss Tommy Dunne throwing two new signings and one old ‘new’ face into the starting line-up last night.
Gavin Kavanagh and John Meade were both making their debuts at the Cross, while for Billy Woods it was a return to hugging the touchline at a venue he knows well. Some of Pat Scully’s new acquisitions, like Dave Rogers, were ineligible but former City man Timmy Kiely was on from the start for Limerick .
Limerick’s lively front two of Daryl Kavanagh and John Tierney were keeping Cork’s central defence of Steven Mulcahy and ex-Crumlin man Gavin Kavanagh on their toes from the off, but when the breakthrough arrived after just 10 minutes, it was all down to City’s inability to handle a straightforward set-piece.
An inswinging Thomas Lyons corner caused an unholy scramble in the Cork box which saw one effort blocked on the line and Mark McNulty tipping another onto the crossbar, before, pouncing on the rebound, Nigel Stanley finally broke the last-ditch goal-line resistance with a powerful shot to the back of the net.
But City were back on terms in a matter of minutes and it was returning favourite Woods who put in all the hard work up the left, first doing extremely well to retain possession in the face of a crunching tackle and then, from his intelligent ball played across the box, forcing luckless Limerick full-back John Boyle to put through his own goal.
With Woods an increasing thorn in Limerick’s side, the balance of play shifted in favour of the home team but it still took a fine double-save by McNulty in the Cork goal to keep the sides level.
Then, with a slaloming solo run, Greg O’Halloran rolled back the years before attempting to beat Dave Ryan with an audacious chip. And in what was developing into an entertaining end to end game, John Tierney could only shoot wide of McNulty’s post as the Cork rearguard opened up.
Seven minutes after the restart, Limerick regained the lead, a great run to the line by John Tierney taking him all too easily around Kavanagh and, with McNulty drawn to the ball, Tierney set up Shane Tracy for a simple tap-in.
With Limerick’s Daryl Kavanagh in irresistible form and 17-year-old midfield substitute David O’Leary — a Corkman, as it happens — showing he’s a player of considerable promise, Limerick constructed some fluent moves which probably deserved a better reward in front of goal but Cork continued to pose a threat in a match which was really a fine advertisement for the First Division.
Unfortunately for the Leesiders, that will come as little consolation as they add another defeat to what has been a poor home record this season.
CORK CITY FORAS: McNulty; Turner, Mulcahy, Kavanagh, Meade (Deasy 90), O’Neill, Morrissey (Varian 73), O’ Halloran, Lordan, Woods, Cummins
LIMERICK: Ryan, Kelly, Stanley, Purcell, Boyle, Kiely, Lyons (O’ Leary 45), White, Tracy (Clarke 65), Kavanagh, Tierney (Deedy 80)
Referee: John Grimes (Dublin)