In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on Limerick’s draw with Cork - and pays tribute to the late Tommy Cooke.
After 15 minutes it looked like Cork had secured the opening brace of points in the National Hurling League against Limerick last Saturday evening in Pairc Ui Rinn.
A full moon hung in the sky just behind the Limerick defence and it looked at times as if it provided a target for the Cork forwards who had rattled over eight points from play. It was a crisp evening for hurling, there was a bite in the air but huge credit to all concerned for the way they had the pitch looking for this game. It was truly outstanding and it added greatly to the game.
From a hurling quality point of view this game won’t live too long in the memory but Limerick’s ability to battle when all seemed lost will be what most people will take from this game. Cork went into the game as favourites and fielded a strong team and it seemed justified given their opening quarter.
They blew Limerick off the pitch, they moved the ball wide and with pace and the Limerick backs were in real trouble as a result. Pat Horgan was like a man inspired as he showed great wrist work to find the range with some lovely points.
Limerick were in trouble in almost every position of the field in the opening half and were lucky to be only three points down at half time. After the first 15 minutes Cork were leading 0-8 to 0- 2 and Pat Horgan had hit five of those points and they also had goal chances which they failed to take. Shane Dowling scored the two Limerick points from frees and overall they had failed to come to terms with the way Cork were playing and it appeared as if they were going to run away with the game.
The Limerick backs were under huge pressure and they were being turned with ease but they had little support as the Cork forwards had lots of space to run onto. A couple of things saw Limerick creep back into the game before halftime, first Paul Browne decided to cut loose and move forward with great pace. The Bruff man took them on and in doing so he scored and provided an opening for others. Then we had the biggest talking point of the game when Graeme Mulcahy was sent off and I doubt if anyone saw what happened. It was a harsh red card on a player who would not be known for dirty play. The referee James Owens left both teams with a sour taste and was much talked about after this game.
Cork now had an extra man for the last ten minutes of the first half but they failed to score during this period whereas Limerick added two, one from Paudie O’ Brien and the other from Shane Dowling which was his fifth of the half. Limerick were down to 14 men but it was this that gave the team the biggest lift, how many times have Limerick done this, it’s not until their backs are to the wall will you see them respond in the way that they did in this game.
The opening ten minutes of the second half were very poor - just like in the first half Limerick couldn’t win their own puck outs and this was killing them. Pat Horgan had points from frees for Cork but we could see signs that Limerick had come to terms with the extra man and three players in particular were taking the game to Cork.
Wayne McNamara, Paul Browne and James Ryan were working very hard and as a result Limerick were starting to make ground against a Cork team that was now showing signs of weakness. Paul Browne had an outstanding game and played a key part in Limerick coming back into this game, his footwork and balance were difficult to track and if he continues to score points he will further enhance his credibility as a top class midfielder.
Limerick had picked up their game, they were now starting to win the fifty fifty ball and more than that they were delivering some heavy hits and put Cork back a few steps. A well taken Paudie O’ Brien effort saw the sides level twenty eight minutes into the second half and the same player swapped points with Pat Horgan to have the sides level again two minutes later.
Cork, through substitute Alan Cadogan, looked to have got the upper hand nearing the end but Shane Dowling, from another free, had the sides level again at 16 points each. Michael O’Sullivan landed one from play to put Cork ahead in injury time but yet another Dowling free on thirty nine minutes saw the game finish level. The Cork bench weren’t happy when the whistle sounded but for Limerick this was a good result given the way the team had started and the reduction to 14 men.
As I mentioned earlier as a game it lacked quality but Limerick showed some great battling qualities to stay in this game when it could so easily have slipped away from them.
The fact that this opening game was a draw will make the League interesting to the finish and it will be all about scoring difference now and it will put pressure on both teams to score as much as they can because this will decide who goes up to Division 1 hurling next year.
This was a bright start by Limerick and they now face Antrim at the Gaelic Grounds next Sunday and it will be a case of driving on now in the coming weeks because we need to secure that place in the higher division of hurling.
Cork left this game with more questions to answer than Limerick and they were very disappointed at the end of the game.
Farewell Tommy Cooke - a true Limerick legend
It was with great sadness that the news filtered through last Thursday evening that Tommy Cooke from Knockainey had passed away in his 100th year. The oldest living All Ireland medal winner had gone to his eternal reward having had enjoyed a life of great health.
A couple of years ago I visited Tommy and spent hours with him discussing hurling, politics and history and I will always cherish the time I spent with him as I learned much about Limerick hurling but also about the history of our country. His knowledge and recall of great hurling games and the many stories he told me about the journey to winning the All Ireland were quite special.
He loved his native place and he loved Limerick and was always willing to share his knowledge. Playing for Limerick meant a lot to him but when Cannon Punch told him he should forget the horses and concentrate on hurling if left Tommy with little option, “Hurling was a way of life for us growing up but so too were horses and I couldn’t turn my back on them, they were a very important part of farming business and I was sad to say goodbye to Limerick hurling.”
He was very proud of his club Knockainey and loved talking about the many great people who kept the club going in difficult times. A very big crowd turned up for his funeral, the Limerick and Knockainey jerseys rested on his coffin and a guard of honour was provided by the members of Knockainey club.
Tommy Cooke has left many memories, a legacy that many can cherish and those memories will have all the more meaning now.