Limerick boss John Kiely sees things coming together nicely after Cork win
Reigning champions win dress rehearsal for next month’s Munster semi-final
Limerick’s Mark Quinlan, Adrian Breen, William O’Donoghue and Cian Lynch with Seán O’Leary Hayes and Billy Hennessy of Cork during the game at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Limerick 0-33 Cork 2-19
Limerick certainly laid down a marker ahead of their Munster semi-final showdown against Cork in four weeks’ time with their first win of the season, an emphatic nine-point victory over the Rebels at a sun-drenched LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening.
A blistering first-half performance saw John Kiely’s side take a well-deserved half-time break with 10 points to spare over their Munster rivals, giving the visitors a mountain to climb.
At half-time, it was 0-20 to 1-7 and Limerick were also guilty of 10 wides. But half of the Shannonsiders’ defence, including Barry Nash, Diarmuid Byrnes and teenage debutant Colin Coughlan added to the scoresheet, along with the hosts’ impressive forwards.
However, Cork gave a better account of themselves in the final 35 minutes, inspired by the introduction of Patrick Horgan at the break.
Speaking after the game, Limerick manager John Kiely said he was pleased with his side’s performance and win.
“It took five weeks to get one, but we got there eventually,” he said.
“Again, an improved performance was the real message, really. Week on week we have been improving and looking for those improvements. And again tonight our work rate was up and our use of the ball was much better – our energy levels were much better.
“The boys were very honest in their endeavour tonight and were very focused on getting the ball. They showed great patience in their tackling, but most of all it wasn’t just one guy that was making the tackle, it was the second and third guy that was making the tackle. They worked really hard as a unit, were very disciplined, and against a side like Cork, you have to be.”
Albeit, against a less than experienced Cork side, the Leesiders starting the game with 14 players aged 24 or younger, while Kiely opted to begin with nine players who started in last year’s All-Ireland final.
Limerick began the game with their trademark vigorous approach to hard work, putting an aggressive high press on the Cork puck-out from the get-go.
This proved to be a winning tactic for Kiely’s charges, as Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey and William O’Donoghue dominated the middle of the park, with playmaker Lynch roaming from midfield to the forward line with ease throughout the game.
Limerick, playing against a slight breeze, began much the brighter and despite clocking up three wides inside two minutes were four points to the good with 10 minutes on the clock – 0-6 to 0-2 – with Aaron Gillane landing two frees inside five minutes, O’Donoghue, Byrnes (free) and Lynch got them off to a flying start.
A dream start for debutant Coughlan saw the Leaving Cert student from Ballybrown score an impressive two points from left half back.
Cork levelled thanks to a Jack O’Connor goal on 12 minutes, after Tadhg Deasy had hit the crossbar but Limerick hit four without reply, two from Peter Casey, to extend their lead to 0-11 to 1-3 at the first water break.
Cork failed to score from play after the water break as further scores from Pat Ryan (two), Barry Nash and Gillane’s sixth score of the game made it 0-20 to 1-7 at the break.
A much-improved second-half performance saw the visitors narrow the losing margin to seven points within five minutes of the restart.
Cork scored their first score from play since before the opening half water break when Robbie O’Flynn slotted over in the 38th minute.
The in-form Gillane responded with two frees for Limerick before Morrissey and Byrnes pushed them 0-24 to 1-11 with 23 minutes remaining to put the home side in control yet again.
Richie English cleared the ball off the line but minutes later Cork found the net, but it proved to be too little too late for Kieran Kingston’s side.
Jack O’Connor scored his second for a very tight angle to give Cork a glimmer of hope as both sides took much-needed water on board – 0-27 to 2-11 in favour of Limerick at the second water break.
Half-time substitute Horgan made a massive difference scoring nine points to give the Leesiders a fighting chance in the closing 35 minutes.
However, Limerick cruised to a comfortable victory despite recording 21 wides.
Limerick saw star defender Seán Finn, an All-Star winner for the last three years, go off in the second half due to a hamstring problem.
Kiely confirmed it was too early to determine the seriousness or nature of the Bruff man’s injury.
Speaking after the game, man of the match Byrnes said the last couple of weeks have been challenging for Limerick and it was vital to get their first win over the line.
“We knew we needed a performance for ourselves in the group. We were probably disappointed with the losses the last two weekends so a win is good tonight,” he said.
“Cork had been flying it last couple of weeks so we knew there was a mighty challenge, them coming down here to Limerick tonight, so we knew we had to be at our best.
“I’m blessed. When I look out in front of me, William O’Donoghue is tearing around the place, Tom Morrissey just loves hitting people.
“The lads work really hard in the middle of the field, it’s excellent to see.
“And we’ve the likes of Gearóid Hegarty to come back in, and having the likes of Cathal O’Neill to come on adding a few points and a couple of tackles, which is great to see as well.”
However, the Limerick right half back and Patrickswell club man said Limerick never felt under pressure to get their first win of the season, as they continue to build ahead of their Championship opener against Cork on July 3rd in Semple Stadium.
“We just worked on our own performance, on our own thing, and what we wanted to do,” he added.
“We weren’t focused on anything on the outside, just ourselves tonight. We just wanted a performance for ourselves, within the group, to get things flowing again.
“We only had a couple of weeks to get back, so the sharpness improves as the games go on. The eyes are getting sharper, the hands are getting sharper. You could see the passing there tonight in a lot of phases. Our intensity was up tonight which is good, but that is freshness and fitness, both of which have been coming along in the last couple of weeks. These things take time. They don’t happen overnight.”
LIMERICK: B Hennessy; R English, S Finn, B Nash (0-1); D Byrnes (0-3; one free, one 65), D Hannon, C Coughlan (0-2); W O’Donoghue (0-1), D O’Donovan (0-1); T Morrissey (0-4), C Lynch (0-4), C Boylan; P Ryan (0-2), A Gillane (0-10; nine frees), P Casey (0-2).
Subs: J Boylan for Finn (48 mins), C O’Neill (0-2) for C Boylan (55), D O’Connell for Ryan, A Breen (0-1) for Casey (both 59), R Hanley for O’Donovan (65), G Mulchay for Gillane, R Connolly for Hannon (both 66).
CORK: P Collins; S O’Leary Hayes, D Cahalane (0-1), N O’Leary; G Millerick, M Coleman (0-2; two frees), R Downey; B Hennessy, D Connery; C Cahalane (0-1), S Kingston (0-2), R O’Flynn (0-1); A Cadogan, D Dalton (0-2; two frees), J O’Connor (2-1).
Subs: P Horgan for D Dalton (0-9; six frees, two 65s), L Meade for Connery, N Cashman for Downey (all half-time), S Barrett for O’Flynn (48), S Twomey for T Deasy for (58), A Connolly for Kingston (67) C O’Brien for C Cahalane (70).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).