Cork 1-16 Limerick 0-11
It had the potential to be a banana skin that could have seen Cork falterin their bid to reach a fifth Munster SFC final in a row, but Rebels manager Ronan McCarthy was delighted to get over the line against an in-form Limerick side on Saturday.
Four points without response before half-time pushed Cork five clear at the break, before another five unanswered points ensured Cork had eight points to spare over Limerick as they booked a Munster final slot against Kerry in Killarney in two weeks’ time.
A first-half goal from John O'Rourke - who, along with Brian Hurley, top-scored for the visitors with 1-3 from play - helped send Cork on their way, while Hurley's six-point haul was enough to get the job done.
“We got the job done, which is what we came to do,” said Cork manager Ronan McCarthy.
“Cork teams have struggled up here in the past and even in the year Cork won the All-Ireland we were taken to extra-time here and we were very lucky to get out of it.
“I thought it was a workmanlike performance. We probably kept them at arms lengths for most of the game, never really in trouble, and considering they were in a good vein of form coming up to the game, having been promoted and having beaten Waterford quite well, I thought we could have made it easier for ourselves but I don’t think we were troubled at any stage.”
But Cork will have a lot of work to do as Kerry seek revenge for last year’s Championship defeat in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Of Cork’s starting six forwards, four failed to get on the scoresheet. O’Rourke, who finished with 1-3 to his name, was the only Cork forward to find the target from open play until Brian Hurley curled over a right-footed effort with three minutes to go.
When Hugh Bourke pointed for Limerick to make it a two-point game, 13 minutes after the first water break, it was the first score in 16 minutes.
But the next four scores came from Ronan McCarthy’s charges as Cork led Cork 1-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
Cork maintained their five-point lead at the second water break as substitute Cian Kiely injected much-needed energy to the cause, adding two points to Cork's tally.
As Limerick tired, Cork added a further five points without response to put an end to Billy Lee’s side’s 2021 season.
Speaking after the game, the Limerick manager felt the scoreline didn’t reflect his side’s performance.
“I don’t think the scoreboard reflected the game against Waterford either, so it swings in roundabouts, and ultimately we lost,” he said.
Lee felt Cork’s early goal was a sucker punch but believes his side always had a fighting chance once they never gave up, despite being left chasing the game from there on in.
Limerick goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan suffered a match-ending injury during the goalscoring incident after O’Rourke somehow managed to bundle the ball over the line in the early stages.
“That’s a measure alone of how we’ve moved on in the last two years. That happened below in Páirc Uí Rinn and next thing, the floodgates opened and they beat us a cricket score.
“We lost our goalie in the meantime who is a key member of our strategy and we absorbed it.”
The Limerick manager praised debutant Aaron O’Sullivan for his ‘seamless’ performance after replacing the injured Donal O’Sullivan in the sixth minute.
“You have to look at what we are trying to do and where we are going and that’s a real positive out of today. He stepped up under a bit of pressure and kicked a ‘45 so that just tells you about the group we have,” said Lee.
Lee says he believes both sides’ League standings are a true reflection of the difference in quality on display on Saturday.
“We lost by eight points and people will say we were in the game, but there you go, you get punished very fast when you are going up against the better teams.
Cork were a top Division 2 team this year, and we were at the top end of Division 3, so there you are, that’s your difference,” he added.
LIMERICK: D O'Sullivan; B Fanning, M Donovan, R Childs; I Corbett (capt) (0-2), G Brown (0-1); D Treacy, T Childs; C Sheehan, C Fahy, A Enright; D Neville (0-2), R Burke, H Bourke (0-5, five frees)
Subs: A O'Sullivan (0-1, 45) for D O'Sullivan (6 mins, inj), B Donovan for R Burke (h-t), J Naughton for Enright, K Ryan for Sheehan (both 44), P Maher for Childs (55), J Ryan for Fahy (61)
CORK: M Martin; S Powter (0-2), D O'Mahony, K Flahive; K O'Donovan, S Meehan (0-1), M Taylor (0-1); I Maguire (capt) (0-1), P Walsh; B Hartnett, R Deane, J O'Rourke (1-3); L Connolly, B Hurley (0-6, four frees), D Dineen.
Subs: C Kiely (0-2) for Powter (43 mins), K O'Driscoll for Walsh (46), B Murphy for O'Mahony (51), M Collins for Connolly (60), M Hurley for O'Rourke (65)
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).