Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rebels rise on strokes of genius


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

their trail.

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

for it.

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

to come.''

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

the hurley.''

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

one match?'

``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).

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