Limerick shaken to the core as Cork demolish the apple-cart
All-Ireland champions left looking ordinary after Cork catapult themselves back in the mix
Limerick’s Peter Casey and Niall O’Leary of Cork in their Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship round 2 clash at Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, on Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
We should have known, really. The lesson of the hurling summer of 2018 was that nobody was safe, least of all in Munster. And so it has proven again this time around. Cork, so lily-livered and out of sorts in their opening-day defeat to Tipperary, turned the whole thing on its head by going to Limerick and handing the All-Ireland champions a 1-26 to 1-19 defeat.
Four games into the Munster championship, three home defeats. Driven on by Patrick Horgan, who scored 1-9 despite for once having a shaky day on the frees, Cork catapulted themselves back into the mix. It was vindication for John Meyler, who made four changes and lost Conor Lehane after six minutes. But with Daniel Kearney and Séamus Harnedy in full cry, they made Limerick look very ordinary in a dominant second-half display.
“There are five teams in Munster, three of them weren’t here today and they can all beat each other on any given day and everybody knows that,” said John Meyler afterwards. “There are five really good teams and the Munster championship is really competitive and you don’t think anything for granted. We knew that coming up today that we had to up our performance, our work-rate, which wasn’t good enough last Sunday, but we got it today.”
For Limerick, this was an apple-cart not so much upset as torpedoed. All the fine words about their handling of All-Ireland success, all the hosannas sung for their league title earlier in the year, all of it is up for grabs now. They have to go to Waterford in a fortnight to rescue their summer.
“I see very little chance of us being able to make it through without winning down there,” said John Kiely. “I don’t know what the maths is going to be like at that stage but listen, let’s face it, we’ve lost our first game, we need to get something out of that second game. We have to go and get a result.”
Earlier, Dublin and Wexford served up the summer’s first true barnburner with a 1-22 to 2-19 draw in Parnell Park. Wexford looked to be out the gap with a precious away win in the Leinster Championship only for Dublin centre-back and dead-ball killer Seán Moran to nail a goal from a 20-metre free with the last puck of the game. Out of nowhere, it jolted life into a Dublin summer that was about to flatline.
To come up to Parnell Park and go away with a point, we’re very happy. We could easily have come here and got nothing
Davy Fitzgerald was doing his best to put a brave face on things afterwards, although he conceded that his dressing room was a quiet place in the wake of it. Wexford had turned around a five-point deficit in the 54th minute to lead by three in the 74th. You’re looking at a glass with 50 per cent of its capacity accounted for, whatever way you look at it.
“To come up to Parnell Park and go away with a point, we’re very happy,” Fitzgerald said. “We could easily have come here and got nothing. Kilkenny were poxed to get out of here last year – any team that comes here will have to earn it.
“I thought we showed tremendous character. The way we played for 20 minutes there, I don’t think any team in the country would touch us – the way we moved the ball around, the intensity that we showed. It’s a killer to get caught in the end, an absolute killer. We’d done enough to see that out.”
For Dublin, the worth of nicking the draw must be measured in more than the single point they’ve put on the board. Without Moran’s goal, their summer was as good as done, and the story would be no different to last year. Two games lost, both of them after having built up a healthy lead.
We showed below in Nowlan Park for 40 minutes the quality of hurling this side can play
Mattie Kenny didn’t put a tooth in it afterwards – he reckons anything less than wins against Carlow and Galway won’t be enough from here. But this will be psychological rocket fuel for the journey.
“Yeah, I think it was hugely important. Because rightly or wrongly, the character of the side has been questioned a number of times. So to come out of today with something, I think will bring on this group a lot.
“We showed below in Nowlan Park for 40 minutes the quality of hurling this side can play. They showed again today the quality of hurling they can play. But we’ve just got to work on getting that consistency for 75, 76 minutes. But I think today’s result will stand to us going forward.”