Brilliant Limerick rip Cork to shreds
LIMERICK 4-18 CORK 1-6 SUPPORTERS of Limerick hurling awoke this morning to sense of glorious optimism for a bright and prosperous future following a truly outstanding performance by the Under 21 side in the Munster final replay at the Gaelic Grounds last evening.
Limerick didn't just beat a highly-rated Cork side - they demolished them with a vintage exhibition of skill, power, pace and precision.
After the drawn game in Cork two weeks previously, nobody in the 11,150 crowd could have possibly envisaged such a one-sided game, but Limerick were reading from a completely different script to Cork and had the title wrapped up by half-time when they led by 2-9 to 0-4.
Senior stars Ben O'Connor and Bernard Rochford did their best to revive Cork, but got very little support. Limerick, in contrast, had leaders all over the field. They shared the responsibility equally between them, making it a mere formality that the Munster title would return to Limerick for the first time since 1987.
Corner-forward Mark Keane was one of several Limerick heroes. He scored 1-9 (1-4 from play), while team captain Donncha Sheehan helped himself to 2-0, which was the ideal way to begin celebrations for this 21st birthday today.
Brian Begley and David Stapleton were also superb in a Limerick attack which dismantled the Cork defence with surprising ease. Further back, Timmy Houlihan, Damien and Paudie Reale, Eugene Mulcahy, Brian Geary and Stephen Lucey were also in excellent form on an evening when Limerick created history by adding the Munster U-21 hurling title to the football crown they won last April.
Limerick's display was as close to perfect as they could have possibly hoped. Cork scored first in the second minute, but from the moment David Stapleton fired over Limerick's opening point in the fourth minute, they grew in confidence.
Mark Keane scored four points - three from play - in the opening 15 minutes, forcing Cork to re-organise their defence. It didn't work, however, as the Limerick attack continued to torment them.
They led by 0-8 to 0-3 after 22 minutes. Ben O'Connor cut the deficit to four points a minute later, but Limerick really cut loose in the final five minutes of the half, scoring 2-1 without reply, with Begley and Sheehan getting the goals.
Limerick quickly re-established their superiority after the break and out-scored the bemused Corkmen by 2-9 to 1-2. Sheehan (in the 33rd minute) and Keane (in the 58th) got Limerick's second half goals which were separated by a memorable display of point-taking from all angles and dis tances.
Sub, William Deasy got in for a Cork goal in the 45th minute, but it failed to ignite them as Limerick pressed on ruthlessly to an All-Ireland semi-final date with Antrim in Parnell Park next Saturday.
On last night's evidence, they are near-certainties to reach the All-Ireland final.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Mark Keane (Limerick)
SCORERS - Limerick: M Keane 1-9 (0-5f), D Sheehan 2-0, B Begley 1-2, D Stapleton 0-5, P O'Grady 0-2. Cork: B O'Connor 0-3 (0-2f), W Deasy 1-0, R O'Doherty, S O'Connor, C McCarthy 0-1 each.
LIMERICK - T Houlihan; D Reale, E Mulcahy, P Reale; P O'Reilly, B Geary, W Walsh; J Meskell, S Lucey; P O'Grady, S O'Connor, D Stapleton; D Sheehan, B Begley, M Keane.
CORK - B Rochford: P Sexton, M Fitzgerald, D McNamara; A Fitzpatrick, R Curran, J Barrett; J O'Connor, A O'Connor; R O'Doherty, N McCarthy, B O'Connor; J Egan, N Ronan, B O'Connor. Subs: V Cusack for Sexton (15 mins); M O'Callaghan for McNamara (h-t), W Deasy for Fitzpatrick (h-t), P Dinneen for Egan (41 mins), C McCarthy for N McCarthy (48 mins).
REF - M Wadding (Waterford)
MUNSTER U21 HC FINAL