Rebels fail to make advantage count
IT seemed as if the extent of Cork's winning margin was the only issue to be resolved after they ran Limerick ragged during the opening sequences of last Saturday night's NHL Division 1B opener at Pairc Uí Rinn.
With 12 minutes gone, the Rebels led by 0-8 to 0-2, and there appeared to be a lot more to come from a rampant attack that had Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane in sparkling form in the full-forward line.
Horgan had four points to his credit at that stage, Lehane had slotted over two, all breathtaking scores, while Cian McCarthy also chipped in with a brace from centre-forward. Aside from Horgan, Lehane and McCarthy, newcomer Rob O'Shea showed up well too early on at wing-forward before the Limerick rearguard gradually tightened up, with their half-back trio of Paudie O'Brien, Wayne McNamara and Gavin O'Mahony particularly influential in stemming the Rebel tide.
Still, the visitors were fortunate not to concede a goal in the 23rd minute when Cork midfielder Lorcan McLoughlin broke up a promising Limerick raid to instigate a counter-attack that put Stephen Moylan clean through.
Moylan blasted the ball over the bar from point-blank range, however, and it amounted to a huge let-off for the Shannonsiders. Leading by 0-9 to 0-4, Cork's prospects took on an even rosier hue four minutes later when Limerick corner-forward Graeme Mulcahy was issued with a straight red-card following an off-the-ball incident with his marker Killian Murphy.
It should have been enough to enable Cork to stamp their authority on the proceedings in earnest, but Limerick proceeded to make light of their numerical disadvantage, and, in view of their admirable grit and resolve, there could be no disputing they deserved to emerge from the fray with a share of the spoils in the end.
Cork led by 0-9 to 0-6 at half time, but, remarkably, they didn't score during the last 14 minutes of the first half, although Conor Lehane did hit the side-netting with a goal chance in this period.
Predictably, the depleted Limerick attack – with corner-forward Sean Tobin playing a deep role and the lion-hearted Shane Dowling comprising a one-man full-forward line – found it difficult to create openings from play in the second half,
But their relentless work-rate, most notably on the part of James Ryan on the '40, meant they were able to force a lot of frees, which, with Dowling unerring from placed balls, allowed them to remain well in touch.
In addition, Paul Browne gave them a definite edge at midfield, but, more than anything else perhaps, it was the grip established by O'Brien, McNamara and O'Mahony in the half-back line that prevented Cork from building up the momentum to pull clear.
Dual player Aidan Walsh tried hard at wing-forward, but little went right for him on his debut with the hurlers before he shipped a heavy tackle that led to his departure in the 46th minute. Conor Lehane had been forced off injured four minutes into the second half, but, while he was obviously a loss, his replacement Alan Cadogan emerged as Cork most effective forward after the interval.
Patrick Horgan made a brief impact after being switched from corner-forward to the '40 in the 52nd minute, setting Cadogan up for Cork's first second half score almost immediately. That made it 0-12 to 0-9, and Cork were still three to the good after Horgan negated a Paul Browne point for Limerick five minutes later.
The gutsy Munster champions kept battling away, however, eventually gaining parity, and refusing to drop their heads even after Cadogan and Stephen Moylan shared a brace of points to restore the advantage to Cork with two minutes of regulation time remaining.
Placed by Moylan, substitute Micheal O'Sullivan nudged Cork in front again with an excellent point deep in stoppage time, but Limerick were awarded a free following the puck-out and the ice-cool Dowling did the needful to leave the sides deadlocked at the finish.
Cork: P Horgan 0-8, 0-3 frees, C McCarthy, C Lehane, S Moylan and A Cadogan 0-2 each, M O'Sullivan 0-1
Limerick: S Dowling 0-11, 0-10 frees, P Browne 0-4, C Allis and P O'Brien 0-1 each
Cork: A Nash (Kanturk), S White (Ballygarvan), S O'Neill (Bishopstown), K Murphy (Erins Own), M Ellis (Millstreet), C Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), W Egan (Kilbrin), D Kearney (Sarsfields), L McLoughlin (Kanturk), R O'Shea (Carrigaline), C McCarthy (Sarsfields), A Walsh (Kanturk), S Moylan (Douglas), C Lehane (Midleton), P Horgan (Glen Rovers). Subs: A Cadogan (Douglas) for Lehane (injured) 39, M Cahalane (Bandon) for Walsh (injured) 46, L O'Farrell (Midleton) for McCarthy, 54, M O'Sullivan (Tracton) for O'Farrell (injured) 58, P Haughney (Midleton) for Kearney, 63
Limerick: N Quaid, S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon, P O'Brien, W McNamara, G O'Mahony, P Browne, D O'Grady, T Ryan, J Ryan, C Allis, G Mulcahy, S Dowling, S Tobin. Sub, K Downes for T Ryan
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)