If Cork were going to produce an upset, they needed to limit mistakes as much as possible against a team as fancied as Limerick. Unfortunately for the Leesiders though, a lack of poise by the sideline within the opening two minutes of the game was an early indication of a tough day at the office. The ball ultimately landed into the hand of Cian Lynch who then slipped the sliotar into the path of Gearóid Hegarty. From there, last year's Hurler of the Year rifled the sliotar past Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins, setting his county up for perhaps their finest hour yet.
The reigning champions' ability to blow opponents out of the water was no secret in the lead-up to the game. Cork therefore needed to respond immediately to Hegarty's early goal and they did through a sensational individual effort from Shane Kingston. The Douglas man collected possession on the 45-metre line and shrugged off Seán Finn, arguably the best corner-back in the game at the moment, as he bombed forward. The sensible option from there would perhaps have been to take a point but he showed an assassin's instinct to hit the net and keep Cork hopes alive, albeit for a brief period.
After falling victim to arguably the finest half of hurling in an All-Ireland final, Cork needed a moment of inspiration to kick-start the comeback. The nearest they came to such a moment arrived when Collins reacted superbly to deny Tom Morrissey a fourth goal for the champions. Having been dispossessed by Lynch in a dangerous area of the pitch, Cork's defence were scrambling as Morrissey accepted the ball and let swing. There was little wrong with the shot but Collins pulled off one of his greatest saves in a Cork jersey. Alas, it didn't provide the inspiration required.
With Cork providing no evidence of a likely turnaround from the opening 10 minutes of the second half, Kieran Kingston was forced into measures he would have hoped he could have kept in his pocket until later in the day. Following the introduction of Damien Cahalane at half-time, the Cork manager brought on Shane Barrett, Seán O'Leary-Hayes and Alan Cadogan in the 47th minute. Although Barrett and Cadogan registered a point apiece, the climb back to parity with Limerick proved too steep. It illustrated a sense of desperation with Limerick looking every bit as lethal as they were in the first half.
As the game entered its final 15 minutes, Cian Lynch responded to some aggressive tackling from Tim O'Mahony with what could be best described as a judo throw. Both players landed in a heap beneath the Hogan Stand before a swarm of players from both sides leaped to the defence of their own. Amid the chaos, linesman James Owens almost found himself thrown to the ground, too. Referee Fergal Horgan eventually brought order to proceedings and play resumed with only yellow cards issued. Anything can happen following brawls: a winning side can lose their temperament while a losing side can be inspired. As it happened, neither of those responses played out.