So a red fire burns its way back up the summer road, charring the breezes with its message.
So a red fire burns its way back up the summer road,
charring the breezes with its message.
The lithe, skipping feet of Seanie McGrath and Joe Deane
are headed for Dublin again. In the hard, fulminating
bullpen of Thurles yesterday, where bodies clashed with a
ferocity that shook panes, Cork re-affirmed their trust in the
cape above the cudgel.
``The way I saw it,'' said Se¢n g hAilp¤n ``was that two
strokes of genius was the difference. One from McGrath, one
from Deane. Pure genius.''
Cork beat a game but hopelessly profligate Limerick team by
nine points (2-17 to 1-11) and so ‡ regardless of their fate in the Munster final on July 2 ‡ will be back hurling in Croke
Park come autumn. They can, thus, sink into the beat of the
Championship with certainty now.
McGrath and Deane lanced in the critical goals on either
side of half-time, both scores bound up in the mysteries that
fly between wrist and eye.
Limerick could never reciprocate such light-fingered wonder,
but neither were they impervious to the notion of rhythm.
James Butler's 43rd minute goal brought them to within two
points of the All-Ireland champions but then Cork kicked on
again, quickening for home like ranchers with Indians on
Victory always looked beyond Eamonn Cregan's team, but
in defeat ‡ they hosed away those grim Angela's Ashes
frowns that seemed to ripple above their eyes a year back. If
conflict is the essence of Championship, this team has a taste
They hit the champions with un-apologetic force yesterday,
beanstalk full-forward Brian Begley setting the early rhythm
by barrelling into Diarmuid O'Sullivan after just 17 seconds.
Both players were booked for the exchange, yet mercifully,
neither reverted to tip-toes in response.
Yet, for all its venom, the hurling was ‡ by and large ‡
poorly stitched. Cork were listing badly against Mike
O'Brien and James Moran in midfield; Limerick were
labouring vainly to rope down a Cork half-back line that
hurled like a trinity of leviathans.
For a time, two men stole the concentration.
MARK FOLEY was an ungovernable presence at number
seven for Limerick, suffocating Timmy McCarthy with the
sheer tempo of his game, always driving, pushing, goading ‡
his personality communicating itself to those around him.
But, just behind him, McCarthy was taking Stephen Lucey to
a bad place. What Limerick were gaining from Foley's
dander, they were leaking to Seanie's mischief.
Just 12 minutes in, Lucey was left pummelling the turf with
his hurl when, facing his own goal, he hesitated under Neil
Ronan's delivery. The shriek from the Killinan-end told him
a thief was in the house. But the shriek came too late.
Two views on the goal:
SEANIE: ``He (Lucey) didn't realise I was so close behind
him and left it go.''
JOE QUAID: ``I didn't think he (McGrath) was going to
flick it from where he did. I thought he was going to take it
on and I had it in my head to take the ball or him or both.''
SEANIE: ``I just flicked it with one hand and it kind of
caught the goalkeeper on the way in. It wasn't a particularly
hard shot, I think he thought I wouldn't make it.''
JOE: ``I got a touch on it alright, thought I might keep it
out. But turned around and saw it nestling in the net.''
SEANIE: ``My first Championship goal. Hope there's more
The goal might have been a kind of catharsis for the
champions if Limerick weren't so pumped, cussed. But Cork
couldn't filter out their fire. Just before half-time, a tiny riot
erupted in Stephen McDonagh's corner and Ollie Moran
escaped with a booking despite arriving like a truck on a
skid-pan to fight someone else's fight.
Moran's intervention was ludicrous and clumsy, yet it
encapsulated the tightness of his team. Limerick trailed by
five at the mid-point, but their nostrils were still flaring.
FOR Cork, the imperative was now survival. As hAilp¤n
read it: ``If we lost this, our summer was gone, the
All-Ireland would have been down the drain. Fellas down
home would have been saying we were a flash in the pan.
``I tell you, I don't want to be sitting down on a couch
watching the Championship this summer. None of us do. So,
while we felt we were a step ahead of them all through the
first-half, we just couldn't shake Limerick off. Sheer guts and
determination were keeping them with us.''
So it continued.
TJ Ryan had defied the sceptics to look every bit the
grizzled, hard-nosed sheriff at number three; Brian Geary
was now policing McGrath, poor Lucey gone to the bench;
Moran and Foley were hurling up a storm at six and seven;
midfield was still green and Ciaran Carey was nailing Brian
Corcoran into defensive mode with flashes of old wiles.
EIGHT minutes after the resumption, Butler had red shirts
bouncing off him like demented Mayfly when he swung
one-handed to beat Donal g Cusack in the Cork goal.
Momentarily, the emerald-clad Killinan throng went limp, as
if in disbelief. Then the netting flexed and a great, cathedral
roar came flooding down upon us.
For the next nine minutes, the argument teetered. Timmy
McCarthy and Pat Ryan scored Cork points, Seanie and
Alan Browne (twice) spilled wides. At the other end, James
Moran, O'Brien and Mark Keane all spooned wayward
Animated, Cregan could be seen in front of the dug-out,
beseeching his wing and corner men to bring their markers
wide. Eamonn could see a narrow alley of possibility here.
But at approximately 4.37pm, that alley closed.
The goal was cruel for Limerick, unspeakably so for their
full-back. TJ Ryan had just made a majestic catch, surged 15
yards and swept the sliotar with all his might towards the
green-end of Semple Stadium. Those 15 yards would kill him.
TJ had good reason to believe he had already fettered the
wings of Deane, hitherto scoreless and increasingly peripheral
as the storm grew. But Joe has nothing if not a sense of
geography. When Sean g fielded TJ's drive at the far-end,
he caught a glimpse in the distance of a yellow helmet free of
Joe saw the sliotar coming and took his decision in an
eye-blink. ``Thought about catching it but I was standing still
and I knew there were fellas coming. If I caught it, I
reckoned I'd be bottled up. So I decided to just let go with
SO Joe let go and, in the unmistakable language of the
assassin, ``it worked out nice, thank God.'' Game over.
From there on in, Limerick kept hunting but by now Cork's
half-backs were an unbreakable stained glass window. Wayne
Sherlock especially kept sweeping loose ball away from
danger like he was plucking groceries off a shelf.
``Extraordinary,'' was Jimmy Barry-Murphy's assessment of
the Blackrock man. No-one thought it too strong.
Time, suddenly, is Cork's friend now and they may just need
it. For midfield is a brittle zone and the left side of their
attack never caught the rhythms needed yesterday.
Limerick go home armed with hope, but mostly hurt now.
As goalkeeper, Quaid, observed: ``This is crazy. You're
training from January 'til now and finished for the rest of the
year. Come next January, if it was the same way, you could
be thinking `Am I going to go through the same again for
``It's all very well playing for the love of the game but some
of us have wives and families. We've to hold down a job.
And you don't get much thanks for it. They'll have to do
``Jesus, it's only the start of June and no more hurling.
Glory just another dog-day apparition.
MY PLAYER RATINGS Cork: D g Cusack 8; F Ryan
8, D O'Sullivan 8, J Browne 7; W Sherlock 9, B Corcoran 9,
S g hAilp¤n 9; M O'Connell 6, P Ryan 7; T McCarthy 7,
F McCormack 8, N Ronan 5; S McGrath 8, J Deane 8, B
O'Connor 6. Subs: A Browne 7, J O'Connor 6, K Murray 7,
D Barrett (not on long enough).
Limerick: J Quaid 7; S McDonagh 8, TJ Ryan 8, S Lucey 5;
B Geary 8, O Moran 8, M Foley 9; M O'Brien 7, J Moran 7;
S O'Neill 4, C Carey 7, M Keane 6; J Butler 8, B Begley 7, B
Foley 5. Subs: C Smith 7, D Stapleton 5, D Hennessy 6, M
Galligan 5, W Walsh (not on long enough).