Treaty leave Rebels hanging by a thread
Munster MHC: Limerick 1-20 Cork 0-17
Cork could still qualify for the Electric Ireland Munster MHC final, but they will need a lot of things to go their way after defeat to Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Saturday evening.
A one-point win for Waterford over Tipperary on Sunday provided some little bit of solace to the Rebels, meaning that pair, Cork and Clare are all on two points with Limerick on four, but Cork's scoring difference is worse than the other three after their losses to Tipp and now Limerick.
By the time they take the field for their final group game, against Waterford in Thurles on June 17, qualification may be beyond them, but for now they will hope that this weekend's games provide a combination of results which can keep them alive.
In the wake of the defeat to Tipperary in Thurles, Cork had rung the changes, with Cian McCarthy, Cian O'Donovan, Ethan Twomey and Ciaran O'Brien all coming into the side as they employed a different tactical configuration.
Against Tipp and in the win over Clare, Cork had conceded three first-half goals, and the management sought to effect a change in that regard. Cormac O'Brien, centre-back up until now, provided a shield in front of the half-back line, with O'Donovan, wearing 8, playing at 6 while Ethan Twomey dropped from right half-forward to midfield.
That denied Limerick easy access through the middle channels, but the Shannonsiders' point-taking meant that they retained control in any case. Having an extra body behind midfield also meant that Cork didn't have enough of an attacking presence to properly trouble the visitors' defence, which remained stout throughout the contest.
Wing-forward Cathal O'Neill shone for Limerick, who never trailed. He scored six points in the first half as they led all through, the Crecora-Manister man punishing any Cork indiscretions with accuracy from dead balls while Patrick Kirby, Eoin O'Mahony and Colin Coughlan chipped in too.
Cork were reliant on Jack Cahalane's frees to stay in touch, but five points on the trot from Limerick in the four minutes before half-time - from Patrick Kirby, Colin Coughlan, Eoin O'Mahony and two by O'Neill - had them 0-12 to 0-6 in front before Cahalane replied in injury time.
Cork reverted to a conventional set-up for the second half as they were forced to chase the game. O'Brien sent over a long-range free in the opening minute but O'Neill replied immediately.
On 33, Cork might have reaped some joy as Pádraig Power wriggled through two challenges to give himself sight of goal but a good saving challenge from Limerick captain Jack Nicholas denied him an opportunity and Limerick were awarded a free out.
At the other end, a Limerick goal might have resulted when Cormac Ryan's sideline cut landed in the danger area, but the ball was cleared for a '65 after a scramble, O'Neill making it 0-14 to 0-8.
A Cahalane free, his fifth point, and Ethan Twomey's second, brought Cork back to within four again, but Limerick solidified their advantage on 42 minutes as Diarmaid Hegarty fed Cormac Ryan and he seared clear before despatching a shot to the net to leave seven between the times.
In double-quick time, that lead was increased to ten, O'Neill with a free and Hegarty adding two points of his own. With 13 minutes left, the outcome was as good as decided, though Cork did continue to persevere.
Power had a point before O'Brien sent over two more frees from distance and Cahalane brought his tally to six with four minutes remaining, but a goal never looked like materialising.
Limerick had enough game-management to remain steady and O'Neill and Eoin O'Mahony extended the cushion again, 1-19 to 0-14 after 58.
O'Brien had his fourth, while Power converted a free with Cahalane having been withdrawn, but it was too late. O'Neill capped his performance and the win for Limerick with a super score from the left sideline to leave him with eleven points before Cork sub Fergal O'Leary got on the scoresheet in injury time.
For Limerick, the win provides a very strong platform upon which to build at home to Waterford this weekend, with victory surely guaranteeing them a place in the final. Such an outcome would probably suit Cork too, while a win for Clare over Tipperary in Ennis would also be welcome as it would mean Tipp finishing on two points with Cork having a head-to-head superiority on the Banner.
The chances are slim, there is no denying that, but they remain in with a shout, just.
Cork: Jack Cahalane 0-6f, Cormac O'Brien 0-4 (3f), Ethan Twomey, Pádraig Power (1f) 0-2 each, Olan Broderick, Daniel Hogan, Fergal O'Leary 0-1 each
Limerick: Cathal O'Neill 0-11 (7f, 1 65), Cormac Ryan 1-1, Diarmuid Hegarty 0-3, Eoin O'Mahony, Patrick Kirby 0-2 each, Colin Coughlan 0-1
Cork: Cian Long (Glen Rovers); Ciarán O'Brien (St Catherine's), Niall O'Riordan (Mallow), Cian McCarthy (St Oliver Plunkett's); Cormac O'Brien (Newtownshandrum); Luke Horgan (Glen Rovers), Cian O'Donovan (Sarsfields), Cillian O'Donovan (Douglas); Ethan Twomey (St Finbarr's), Olan Broderick (Killeagh); Pádraig Power (Blarney), Shane Barrett (Blarney), Daniel Hogan (Sarsfiels); Paddy O'Flynn (Bride Rovers), Jack Cahalane (St Finbarr's) Subs: Aaron Mulcahy (Midleton) for O'Flynn (34), Cathal Hickey (Lisgoold) for Broderick (44), Ryan McCarthy (Killeagh) for Cian McCarthy (47), Fergal O'Leary (Inniscarra) for Hogan (48), Paul Cooney (Ballincollig) for Cahalane (56).
Limerick: Bryan Heavey; Pádraig Harnett, Ben Herlihy, Michael Keane; Eoin O'Mahony, Emmet McEvoy, Jack Nicholas; Patrick Kirby, Barry O'Connor; Diarmuid Hegarty, Cormac Ryan, Colin Coughlan; Cathal O'Neill, Bob Purcell, Bryan Nix Subs: David Riordan for Nix (37), Danny O'Leary for Coughlan (54), Michael Martin for Kirby (56), Kyran O'Donnell for Herlihy (57), David Hickey for Purcell (60)
Referee: Joe Mullins (Clare)