Limerick 0-29 Cork 2-21
Limerick manager John Kiely hailed the impact of his bench as the League champions came good late on to see off Cork at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Leading by 0-17 to 0-11 at half-time before a crowd of 11,212, having been eight in front shortly before the break, the Shannonsiders found themselves three behind when Cork sub Aidan Walsh scored a goal to make it 2-18 to 0-21 in the 53rd minute.
The dead-ball accuracy of Cork captain Patrick Horgan helped the Rebels to stay in front as the end neared, but Limerick had six of the final eight points, ensuring they made it three wins from three. Kiely felt that the players introduced in the second half made a big difference.
"I'm very happy with that," he said, "the lads off the bench made a big impact in that regard because they brought freshness and great energy to it.
"Graeme [Mulcahy] worked really hard, Tom Morrissey worked really hard, Barry Nash worked really hard, David Reidy worked really hard and they all got on the ball and got tackles in. Darren O'Connell came on and won his free and got out in front and won his ball and worked really hard."
While other players returning from injury will help to make the Treaty men even stronger, Kiely revealed that defender Richie English will miss the remainder of the season after having to come off injured against Galway three weeks ago.
"There are a number of guys coming back into contention," he said. "Adrian Breen is back in training, Peter Casey is back training, Tom Condon has a broken finger but he is well over halfway in terms of getting back on track with that.
"Richie English unfortunately has picked up a cruciate knee ligament injury so his involvement this season has unfortunately come to an end. We will look after him and he will get the best of care in the weeks and months ahead and he has the full support of the management team and the panel of players - Richie is a real solid guy and he will bounce back from this."
Limerick never trailed in the first half, putting together three separate four-point bursts to ensure that they retired with a healthy 0-17 to 0-11 half-time lead.
The Shannonsiders' first 11 shots - by seven different players - were all points, the visitors having surged after scores from Shane Kingston and Patrick Horgan had drawn Cork level at 0-4 each by the ninth minute.
In response, Limerick had points from Cian Lynch, Séamus Flanagan, Aaron Gillane - who finished with 13 - and William O'Donoghue. Horgan, who had 17 to his name by the end, had two as Cork cut the gap, but Darragh O'Donovan (two), Paddy O'Loughlin and David Dempsey ensured a 0-12 to 0-6 lead by the 17th minute.
Cork, playing a in a black kit to commemorate the centenary of the deaths of Lord Mayors Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney, were too reliant on Horgan for scores, though they did see Declan Dalton point a nice sideline cut before a good Tim O'Mahony interception prevented Kyle Hayes from setting up Séamus Flanagan for a goal. Coming up to half-time, four consecutive Gillane frees put Limerick 0-17 to 0-9 ahead, but Cork finished the half with two from Horgan and he was on target again immediately after the resumption.
The Rebels were better in the second period and a superb Horgan score on 42 had them within four points before a fine individual goal from Kingston reduced the gap to the minimum. By the 47th minute, Horgan had the game tied and though Gillane put Limerick in front again, another Horgan equaliser was followed by Walsh's goal.
Limerick were back to within a point as Gillane sent over two more and sub Tom Morrissey levelled matters at 2-19 to 0-25 on 61. After Horgan and Gillane exchanged points, Horgan put Cork ahead on 66, but Limerick had the final three, from Hayes, Diarmaid Byrnes ('65) and Gillane.
Cork manager Kieran Kingston was encouraged by the second-half performance. "I think we won the second half by four or five points," he said. "We stood back and admired Limerick in the first half and went six or seven points down. You can't do that playing against a top team."
Scorers - Limerick: A Gillane 0-13 (11f); D O'Donovan 0-3; K Hayes, P O'Loughlin, S Flanagan, C Lynch 0-2 each; G Hegarty, W O'Donoghue, D Dempsey, T Morrissey, D Byrnes ('65) 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-17 (15f, 1 '65); S Kingston 1-1; A Walsh 1-0; D Dalton (1 sl) 0-2 each; B Cooper 0-1.
LIMERICK - N Quaid 7; S Finn 6, M Casey 7, A Costello 7; D Byrnes 7, D Hannon 7, P O'Loughlin 7; C Lynch 8, W O'Donoghue 7; K Hayes 7, G Hegarty 6, D O'Donovan 8; D Dempsey 6, A Gillane 8, S Flanagan 8. Subs: T Morrissey 7 for Hegarty, G Mulcahy 7 for Dempsey (both 56), D Reidy 7 for Lynch (60), B Nash for O'Loughlin (64), D O'Connell for Flanagan (67).
CORK - P Collins 7; E Cadogan 6, C Spillane 7, S O'Leary Hayes 6; M Coleman 7, R Downey 7, T O'Mahony 6; B Cooper 7, D Fitzgibbon 6; R O'Flynn 6, S Harnedy 6, L Meade 6; D Dalton 6, P Horgan 8, S Kingston 8. Subs: A Walsh 7 for Meade (h-t), C Lehane 6 for Dalton (57), C Joyce for O'Mahony (66), C Cahalane for O'Flynn (70).
Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny)