This game of football kicked off Limerick's 2019 season in Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park, but the visit of Cork for the McGrath Cup semi-final brought no New Year joy Billy Lee's charges.
Although they kept in touch with their opponents before the break, despite conceding a tenth minute goal, a more focussed second-half performance from Rebels blew Limerick off the field as they crashed to a seventeen-point defeat.
In fact, the final scoreline hides the limitations of Limerick’s challenge in their only competitive outing before they open their National League campaign away to London on Sunday fortnight.
The score from play was 3-14 to 0-1 with the hosts’ only score from play coming in the fourth minute and they failed to find the target after the break until two minutes into injury time.
Granted, pre-season tournaments are never a reliable guide as to how the year pans out when real competition starts but a home team starting with eight regulars from last season’s league lineups and another four in the subs made almost no impact on the Cork defence as they relied exclusively on drawing fouls for Seán McSweeney to punish.
And while they coped with Cork’s cautious approach early on, the defence was ripped open when the Rebels turned up the heat after the break.
Tommy Griffin replied to Damien Gore’s opener before Kevin Crowley restored Cork’s lead and they opened up the gap when Brian Hurley ran onto Matthew Taylor’s delivery to shoot low to the net beneath the advancing Donal O’Sullivan. Hurley then added a point before Limerick recovered through a McSweeney free and he added two more after Paul Walsh’s reply to bring the margin back to a single goal.
There it remained as Cork were content to contain and strike on the break as Ian Maguire and James Loughrey finished raides by shooting just over the crossbar. They were met by two further McSweeney frees which left score at 1-6 to 0-6 at then break.
The visitors stepped up the pressure right from restart and Walsh palmed to the net off Hurley’s handpass off the first move and Maguire, again off Hurley’s pass, crashed home their third goal minutes later in a lightning attack.
Limerick’s laboured moves forward failed to find response after the fury died down and the Rebels picked it up again as Gore, Ruairí Deane twice, Maguire and Hurley moved their lead out of sight.
As substitutions broke up the play, James Fitzpatrick, a Hurley free and a point from Tadhg Corkey added to Cork’s tally before Mark White’s save denied Michael Donovan a Limerick injury-time goal.
McSweeney followed up with a free for the home side’s only second-half score but even that was countered by Eoghan McSweeney’s strike with the last action of the game.
Scorers for Limerick: S McSweeney (0-6, 0-6 frees); T Griffin (0-1).
Scorers for Cork: B Hurley (1-3, 0-1 free); I Maguire (1-2); P Walsh (1-1); R Deane, D Gore (0-2 each); J Loughrey, K Crowley, J Fitzpatrick, T Corkery, E McSweeney (0-1 each).
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; P Maher, S O’Dea, M Donovan; B Fanning, T McCarthy, G Brown; D Treacy, T Griffin; J Liston, S McSweeney, M Fitzgibbon; P Nash, A Kearns, K Daly. Subs: C McSweeney for Fanning, D Lyons for Daly (both 39); S Keely for Fitzgibbon (46); J Lee for Liston, L Murphy for Maher (55).
Cork: M White; C Dennehy, J Loughrey, K O’Donovan; K Crowley, K Flahive, P Walsh; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; T Clancy, S White, M Taylor; D Gore, R Deane, B Hurley. Subs: T Corkery for Crowley (22 mins, inj); E McSweeney for White (HT); A Browne for Loughrey (39); J Fitzpatrick for O’Hanlon (42); P Murphy for Flahive (48).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).