Sean Maguire, especially.
It didn’t quite work that way.
Little enough separated the sides for the bones of the first quarter. A Garry Buckley shot deflected for a Cork corner here. A blocked Chiedozie Ogbene effort and a Rodrigo Tosi header for the home team there. There were 20 minutes gone when Limerick started handed out the gifts.
Little enough was expected when Shaun Kelly turned towards his own goal but the strength of his pass — which may or may not have been meant for his goalkeeper — left centre-back Tony Whitehead with a tricky job in trapping the ball, let alone clearing it.
Whitehead wasn’t quite up to it and within moments Stephen Dooley had pounced on the heavy touch and slipped the ball through to Maguire whose first-time finish on the run was clinical, low and to the right of a stranded Brendan Clarke between the sticks.
It was a goal that hit Limerick hard.
For the next five minutes they coughed up possession time and time again, most of it in their own half, but Cork couldn’t double the punishment at first. Maguire flicked a ball just past the post after being played in over the top by Alan Bennett and Dooley smacked one off the bar from a Karl Sheppard pull-back.
Still, it was breathless stuff for a while.
Bennett followed that all up with a header at the back post from a corner that Clarke collected easily enough before the onslaught eased. That was temporary. Limerick were caught again just after the half-hour and it was another goal that shed little in the way of favourable light on the home defence.
Kevin O’Connor had far too much time to send a low-slung cross in from the left and how Buckley ghosted in between the back four and the goalkeeper to side-foot the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box must have left manager Martin Russell furious.
Two up and little enough ball played.
To give Cork their due, it was a decent exercise in how to kill a potentially tricky Munster derby on a perfect night — and pitch — for football: feel your way into the game, take your chances when they come and generally frustrate a home team whose form has been up and down so far this term.
Caulfield had warned of a potential ambush at Market’s Field now that they were starting the evening unbeaten and six points clear at the top. With five former Cork City players in the squad, Limerick should have had an inside track but they threatened only intermittently after conceding the first.
Midfielder Paul O’Connor had a weak effort smothered by Mark McNulty after the ball fell to his feet about 15 yards out after 35 minutes — that was the best of their first-half chances — but it clearly wasn’t enough for Russell who made two attacking switches at the break.
On came David O’Connor and John O’Flynn but Limerick were 3-0 down before either had a sniff with Gearoid Morrissey unleashing a superb shot past Clarke from 25 metres out. Scoring it in front of the goal where the travelling support had gathered only made it sweeter.
Limerick had switched to three at the back with their changes at the interval but it did more than harm than good for long periods as Cork continued to turn the screw with an O’Connor free-kick turned aside by Clarke and Maguire having another two attempts turned away.
Limerick managed a short spell of pressure midway through the second-half with Tosi smacking one high over the bar and McNulty making life difficult for himself and the visiting defence when rushing twice off the line and failing to connect properly with a pair of punched clearances.
Both sides put together a selection of half-chances in the last twenty minutes but any remaining intensity was draining from the evening. A seventh win on the trot for the Leesiders, a clean sheet to go with it.and Derry City next up at Turner’s Cross.
Not a bad night for them.
B Clarke; S Kelly, R Williams, T Whitehead, T Robson (D O’Connor HT), LJ Lynch (J O’Flynn HT), S Duggan, P O’Connor, I Turner, C Ogbene, R Tosi (C Mulhall 81).
M McNulty, J Keohane (S Griffin 64), A Bennett, R Delaney, K O’Connor, K Sheppard, C McCormack, G Morrissey, G Buckley, S Dooley (C Nanetti 85), S Maguire (C Ellis 75).