Conor Counihan ‘reasonably happy’ with ‘workmanlike’ performance

Cork manager not getting carried away with 18-point win over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds

Limerick’s Johnny McCarthy tries to dispossess Paul Kerrigan  Cork) during the Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at the  Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Limerick’s Johnny McCarthy tries to dispossess Paul Kerrigan Cork) during the Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Cork 3-17 Limerick 0-8: Impossible as it is to read anything either on or between the lines of this Cork performance - such was the sadly lamentable extent of Limerick’s challenge here on Saturday evening - there was a certain brooding about Conor Counihan afterwards that suggested things might be different this summer.

The Cork manager, not quite his jovial self, was soft on Limerick but hard on his own men - for not hitting where it hurts a little earlier, not being more ruthless about it in the end.

“It was very workmanlike,” said Counihan, “And we’d be reasonably happy. But look, we’re under no illusions. The intensity of that second half, you wouldn’t normally survive at that level. So we’ve got to move it on again. The goals we got were not too bad, but we probably should have taken one or two more.”

Cork have three weeks now to get ready to face Clare in Ennis - the hope there being Mick O’Dwyer might be able to raise a little more spirit from his men: Limerick may have stayed with Cork until the 13th minute (when the sides were still level on two points each) but what followed didn’t do either team any good, as Limerick quickly disintegrated, and Cork ended up playing target practice.

That’s not saying Cork didn’t show some attitude: they hit Limerick with a continuous onslaught, mixing up the long and short ball, showing obvious signs of reinvention: “Attitude isn’t really a problem with this group, to be fair to them,” added Counihan, another statement of intent.

“We did get the work rate out of fellas. We have to look at where we could have had more scores, and could have been a bit more clinical. We certainly expected a bigger challenge (from Limerick), but look, football is a funny game. Some days you go out and some team is playing well and the other team’s performance isn’t as good and the gap is significant, but look, that can happen to any of us at any given day. I don’t think it’s a true reflection of where Limerick are at.”

There is no easy explanation for Limerick’s apathy - especially for a team that pressed Cork so hard in recent meetings, most notably in 2010: whatever life was in them was squeezed out in a brisk seven-minute spell towards the end of the first half, when Cork hit them with three goals in succession - having missed three clearcut changes up to then.

The first, on 25 minutes, saw Brian Hurley fist in Daniel Goulding’s long ball; debutant John O’Rourke’s long shot followed that (helped in by Goulding); and then Pearse O’Neill, who finished off his thundering run with an unstoppable shot.

So, with Cork leading 3-4 to 0-3 at the break, neither team had much left to play for - and so it proved. Cork simply scored at will - Goulding, Ciaran Sheehan, Paul Kerrigan and substitute Mark Collins hitting the best of them - while Limerick despite emptying their bench with 15 minutes to go, only managing another five paltry points, the biggest cheer from the home crowd going to the ever-battling John Galvin.

“Sure by the time of the first goal, we were hanging on by our finger nails,” admitted Limerick manager Maurice Horan, who emerged from their dressing room with the look of a man who might well have just wiped some tears from his eyes.

“We tried playing with an extra man back, and they still seemed to carve us open, running very strong. But we didn’t track their runners, were running after them instead of being ahead of them. They were also popping the ball over our heads and creating opportunities everywhere. So very disappointing, because we actually prepared very well for this match, we were quietly confident.”

Worse still for Horan is this enduring record of seeing Limerick perform so poorly in Munster, yet still raise some gallop for the qualifiers - and that’s the only hope now: “I never would have thought before the game that we were going to be that far behind. Cork are a good team, one of the best teams in the country, and we were always going to be up against it, but we felt we were in the right place, had a strong team out.

“But everything we focused on before the match we just didn’t do and I don’t know why. I can’t fathom it, can’t put a finger on it. People talk about division one versus division four, and I don’t like that, because I think Limerick can scale up to play better in the championship against teams in higher divisions. But there it was division one versus division four.”

CORK : K O’Halloran; P Kissane, M Shields, D Cahalane (0-2, one free, one 45); J Loughrey, G Canty, T Clancy; A O’Connor, P O’Neill (1-0); C Sheehan (0-1), P Kelly, J O’Rourke (1-1); D Goulding (0-5, one free), B Hurley (1-1), P Kerrigan (0-2). Subs: F Goold (0-2) for Kelly, N O’Leary for Canty, D O’Connor for Sheehan (all 50 mins), A O’Sullivan for O’Neill (56 mins), M Collins (0-3) for Kerrigan (58 mins).

Yellow cards: C Sheehan (28 mins), G Canty (33 mins). Red cards: None

LIMERICK : D O’Sullivan; A Lane, J McCarthy, M O’Riordan; S Lavin, P Ranahan, P Browne; B O’Brien, J Galvin (0-1); J Riordan, T Lee, S Buckley (0-1); G Collins (0-1), I Corbett, E O’Connor (0-3, one free). Subs: M Sheehan (0-1) for Corbett, D O’Connor for O’Brien, S O’Carroll for Corbett ( all half-time), S Lucey (0-1) for Buckley (51 mins), L O’Dwyer for O’Riordan (56 mins).

Yellow cards : None Red cards : None

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)