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treaty woes increase as cork canter

A minute's silence is often observed before Championship games to mark the passing of recently deceased GAA members.

There was none at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, but it felt like there should have been, as the last rites were administered to Limerick's 2010 hurling season back in March. That was when club delegates voted, for the second time in a matter of months, overwhelmingly in favour of retaining Justin McCarthy as the county's senior hurling team manager.

Cork's winning margin in yesterday's forgettable Munster semi-final was 13 points, when many predicted that it could have been 20 or more.

A victory of sorts for the visitors then, but as reporters waited for McCarthy to arrive for post-match quotes, it quickly became apparent that he wasn't going to show up. Indeed, one member of the management team who had volunteered to offer his thoughts was on his way to the boardroom under the covered stand when he was pulled back by McCarthy and asked to go no further.

And so, it was left to captain Bryan O'Sullivan, a well-spoken medical student at UCC, to bat for the Shannonsiders. The centre back spoke of how this team has good potential and claimed that they underperformed yesterday, only playing at "60 per cent".

"The breaks went against us," said O'Sullivan, accurate to a point as Pat Horgan engineered two first-half penalties for Cork, scoring one and then missing one himself.

Approaching half-time, Limerick were competitive, trailing 0-5 to 1-9, before hurleys swung as players from both sides got stuck into each other around midfield. In the melee, Limerick wing forward Seán Herlihy foolishly swung backwards with his stick and caught Shane Murphy on the faceguard.

Referee James Owens issued a red card and, with that, any faint hopes of a miracle were extinguished.

The sides traded scores before the break as Cork led 1-10 to 0-6 at the midway point, and the second half was played at a challenge-match pace, with barely a glove laid on the Rebels as they failed to win a free after half-time.

The atmosphere at the ground was surreal throughout, and from the press box, players could be heard bellowing at each other.

Normally in a Munster hurling semi-final you can barely hear yourself think, but just 13,638 bothered to turn up yesterday, down some 24,000 on the crowd that gathered for the victory over Tipp on May 30.

However, provincial council chiefs should be smiling again on July 11 as it's expected that the 'full house' signs will be hung at Semple Stadium when Cork and Waterford collide in what promises to be another epic Munster final.

Yesterday, just six of the 30-man panel listed for last August's All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary featured for Limerick, a result of the bitter dispute which rocked Shannonside throughout the winter and beyond.

During the week, Cork boss Denis Walsh spoke of how McCarthy has always managed to maximise the talent at his disposal. The embattled Limerick manager could have argued, had he bothered to speak to the press, that he managed it again, but Cork, in truth, were operating in fourth gear at best.

O'Sullivan added: "Limerick's record in the Munster Championship for the past decade just isn't good enough. We've only won two first-round Munster Championship games in the past 10 years. We have to regroup now and improve that record over the next few years."

But it's impossible to see that happening in the current circumstances -- and under the current manager. True, there were some members of last year's panel who deserved to be dropped and, indeed, some of yesterday's team who would make a full strength Limerick team. But how much better would the men in green have been yesterday had Seamus Hickey been there, or Brian Geary, or Niall Moran, to name but a few?

In one Sunday newspaper, former Limerick goalkeeper Joe Quaid warned that the fall-out from 'McCarthy-gate' would be felt for another six years.

Relegation from Division 1 of this year's NHL was ensured when Dublin dished out a 31-point hammering in the final group game, and now Limerick find themselves out of the Munster Championship. That's simply not progress. They did come close to scoring a goal yesterday, though, but Donal Óg Cusack did well to block Paudie McNamara's 32nd minute penalty.

Soon after, Herlihy saw red and the game was dead at half-time.

Cork boss Denis Walsh, who lost corner back Brian Murphy with a twisted knee, reflected on his team's display: "They pressed on the buttons when they needed to."