Cork end this Páirc life back on the top of the pack

Limerick lose crown as Rebels claim first provincial title in eight years

Cork 2-24 Limerick 0-24

Cork gave Páirc Uí Chaoimh a big send-off this afternoon in a memorable Munster hurling final when their forwards finally got on top of defending champions Limerick to give the home county a 52nd provincial title and catapult them into next month’s All-Ireland semi-final.

It is Cork’s first Munster title in eight years and was wildly celebrated by the red-and-white following in a capacity crowd of 36,075.

Goals proved crucial and in the 54th minute with the teams shooting a barrage of points at each other like duellists, Séamus Harnedy, who had been having a difficult afternoon but whose second half was hugely influential, wove a way through Limerick’s rearguard and crashed home the goal that finally put some daylight between the teams, 1-18 to 0-18.

As the match loosened, Cork were better able to attack on the break and snipe points, which they did through Patrick Horgan and Bill Cooper.

Shane Dowling kept the scoreboard moving for Limerick but the door was firmly closed by replacement Paudie O'Sullivan who came out from full forward to latch on to a lovely ball from Daniel Kearney, who had expertly dispossessed Séamus Hickey to play the ball into his full forward.

O’Sullivan, one of the championship’s happiest stories after his return from injury, turned and shot into the net.

An absorbing first half left the teams tied on 12 points each. Both would have been slightly disappointed. Limerick had early dominance in the first quarter and squandered chances – the usually flawless Dowling missing an early free and a 65 and overall they hit seven wides in the opening 35 minutes.

The visitors had hit the ground running. Their attack moved smartly and took advantage of a looseness in Cork’s marking as only Shane O’Neill of the six backs looked up to speed from the start.

Limerick's centrefield triangle was dynamic and exerted pressure with James Ryan and Paul Browne both on the mark and Donal O'Grady rattling off two in quick succession as he did against Tipperary. Graeme Mulcahy was elusive and menacing and Declan Hannon hit a monster point from deep in his own territory.

Cork were slower to start but picked up their scores more easily. Although well contained by the Limerick defence in the initial stages, the home attack started to click with Conor Lehane leading the way with four fine points and Alan Cadogan getting two runs on Tom Condon and converting both into points.

In the end the better team won and although Limerick continued to press desperately Cork were well on top and in the end when Lorcán McLoughlin rounded off the match with a resolute block on Limerick captain Dónal O’Grady as he tried for a late goal.

CORK: A Nash (0-1, free); C Joyce, S O'Neill, S McDonnell; L McLoughlin, M Ellis, D Cahalane; D Kearney, A Walsh (0-2); S Harnedy(1-2), B Cooper (0-2), C Lehane (0-5); A Cadogan (0-3), P Horgan (0-8, six frees), P Cronin (capt).

Subs: P O'Sullivan (1-1) for Cronin (36 mins), W Egan for Cahalane (43 mins), S Moylan for O'Sullivan (70 mins).

LIMERICK: N Quaid; R McCarthy, S Hickey, T Condon; P O'Brien (0-1), W McNamara (0-1), G O'Mahony; J Ryan (0-1), P Browne (0-1); D Breen (0-1), D O'Grady (0-2), D Hannon (0-1); G Mulcahy (0-3), S Dowling (0-12, nine frees), K Downes (0-1).

Subs: S Walsh for O'Brien (52 mins), S Tobin for Hannon (54 mins), C King for O'Mahony (67 mins), T Ryan for Downes (68 mins).

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).