IT was damp and overcast in the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday. In many ways, the weather matched the hurling we saw from Limerick.
There was little doubt about this contest from the very early stages. Cork were simply much better. They showed a hunger that Limerick never matched and they could have won by an even greater margin.
We have seen a lot of players over the past couple of weeks, but on this evidence I would think the knives are about to be sharpened for some of them. Limerick showed a lot of changes from the Waterford game, but very few of those that got to play in this game will have given the management much reason to consider them.
Cork had a lot of youth on show but I would have to say that a number of them were impressive. It was clear from the outset that Cork were much sharper, fitter and also showed more intent.
Cork have made no secret of the fact that they intend to go with young players and many of the ones we saw last Sunday could be around come championship time.
Limerick had the ideal start when Barry Nash scored a goal, but from this point on Cork took control.
I stressed last week that these games will count for little come summer time. For Limerick it’s about getting the mix right and it’s clear that will not be easy.
Some of those lads that played U21 are going to struggle and history has taught us that a fair degree of them will just not make the cut. This Co-Op Superstores League is but a tournament. It will fade fast from the mind.
Players have been given an opportunity to express themselves but as of now few standout. Over the past couple of years Limerick had problems in defence and it shows no sign of improving at the moment.
Cork exploited those weaknesses again last Sunday. They played early ball with the right amount of pace on it and that caused the Limerick full backline lots of trouble.
What was clear in this game was that Cork's first touch was way ahead of Limerick. They didn’t have to go at it a second time.
It was crisp and when on the hurley they turned the full backline inside out. It wasn’t helped with the space allowed by the Limerick half backline.
They allowed themselves to be pushed towards midfield which saw more than thirty meters of space between the lines. The Limerick half-back line were well hurled and offered little protection to their inside line.
Daniel Kearney and Darragh Fitzgibbon did well at midfield for Cork. Both Darragh O’Donovan and Pat Ryan struggled and failed to make an impact against Kearney and Fitzgibbon.
By halftime, Cork had inflicted heavy wounds on Limerick. They exposed them in many areas and Limerick had few answers. The fact that the opposition scored 3-12 in the opening thirty five minutes gives one a fair insight into the dominance of Cork.
Barry Nash had a good opening goal but Stephen McDonnell got to grips with him after that. Kevin O’Brien scored three good points, while Ronan Lynch landed some frees.
One would have to be impressed with the play of the Cork forwards. Pat Horgan did well and scored goals at full forward. Likewise Alan Cadagon and Shane Kingston. The latter knows his way around the field.
Young he maybe, but he has the craft to be part of their championship team.
The Cork forwards sliced through the Limerick defence. At every turn they ran at them and created space. While Limerick brought on more experience for the second half it mattered little.
Cork were relentless. Hitting four more goals and landing points at will. It’s way too early to be getting excited but I would like to see signs of things coming together.
I would like to see lads nailing down some positions. Based on what I have seen over the past two weeks, Limerick have a lot of things to get right. I would think the balance of the team last Sunday was not good.
Younger players need experience around them and there was little enough of that in the starting team. This run of games is about finding nuggets that can be used later.
Judging now might be too early for some but others clearly are finding it difficult to make the step up. Some lads need to come down to earth pretty fast.
Senior hurling has a way of taming those that think they have it mastered.
Cork were the architects of the short game but we could see a move away from that in this game. They delivered the ball early and to good effect.
Limerick on the other hand were hand passing all over the place. I would like to see them hurl off the cuff a bit more. If they play a short game then that will be very much against the grain.
I would say also that the standard of striking by many of the Limerick players was really poor. That won't improve if they continue to play tennis-like hurling.
These are busy times for players both at county level and also with the Fitzgibbon Cup just around the corner.
They will have a run of games over a short period and that will bring its own challenges. This Munster League will be over soon and Limerick will need to be ready for their trip to Wexford on February 12. We can have a few sideshows along the way, but the business really starts then. That’s why I would like to see a foundation to the team.
It would be a brave man that could now name ten or twelve of the team come championship time against Clare. Calls need to be made and lads need to settle into positions.
This week will see the team play Clare midweek and Kerry in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday. Confidence is built on many things and we can only hope that the coming weeks will show early buds in this regard.
Limerick lacked hunger and passion last Sunday and that was very disappointing especially when places are up for grabs.
The green and white means a lot to many people. What we saw last Sunday was not good enough both in application and desire.
MCGRATH CUP FINAL
BACK-to-back wins last week saw the Limerick footballers qualify for the McGrath Cup final. Beating a strong Clare team and Waterford last Sunday will give all concerned a great boost.
Kerry have used players mainly from their U21 team in games so far and I am sure that will also be the case in the final.
That win against Clare was impressive because they fielded a strong team. I liked the work rate of the team and they also had some great scores.
Billy Lee has got lads on side and it’s clear they are playing for him. Some of the younger players are making progress and that has given a great lift to the entire team and management.