Cork 3-13 Limerick 2-8
CORK footballers’ first Munster championship outing in the new millennium ended with victory, but not before a searching examination of their credentials from a young Limerick side.
Just as had been proven in the previous century, league and championship often carried little relevance and the initial offering of 2000 maintained that belief.
Almost 20 years ago to the day manager Larry Tompkins brought his Munster champions to Kilmallock, where the majority of the 7,000 supporters were willing on the men in green.
Limerick manager Liam Kearns wasn’t afraid to give youth its fling and his side finished with nine players who had lined out the previous weekend in the All-Ireland U21 final.
One of those, Colm Hickey, emerged as one of the outstanding performers on the evening, helping himself to a creditable 2-3 even though he was a central figure in a major moment which altered the game’s direction.
Limerick had reduced Cork’s lead to the minimum margin, 24 minutes into the second-half, when Hickey stood over a close-range free and an equaliser appeared likely.
But, he couldn’t raise the ball sufficient and a much-relieved Cork defence managed to clear the danger.
Had Hickey succeeded, there was every reason to believe Limerick would have gone on to record a famous victory, but it wasn’t to be.
Cork had endured 20 scoreless minutes as Limerick hit four points on the spin, but the holders made the most of their let off to put their opponents out of reach.
And Tompkins’s faith in his bench paid off in spades as substitutes Podsie O’Mahony and Kieran Daly fired in goals in a devastating two-minute burst to silence the crowd and deflate the home challenge.
At the outset Cork bossed the game, scoring a couple of early points to settle immediately and they were four in front, when Limerick, or rather Hickey, rattled them with a couple of quick-fire goals in a five-minute salvo.
Cork’s experience told though and they showed impressive composure to cope with Limerick’s renewed fire to be on level terms at the break, 0-9 to 2-3.
Centre-forward Joe Kavanagh and Phillip Clifford in the inside line kept the scoreboard ticking along before Cork returned to ignite the second-half with an early scoring blast.
Inside three minutes they had added 1-3 to their tally as shell-shocked Limerick reeled at the intensity of Cork’s play.
Kavanagh slammed in a trademark goal after swapping passes with Micheal ‘Haulie’ O’Sullivan and suddenly the visitors were back in control again.
Or so they believed until switching off and allowing Limerick back into the contest with the issue in doubt until Hickey’s missed free and Cork’s goals.
Afterwards, Tompkins paid tribute to Limerick’s gutsy performance.
“That Limerick team would have troubled most teams out there.”
Scorers for Cork: J Kavanagh 1-3, P Clifford 0-3, P O’Mahony and K Daly 1-0 each, C O’Sullivan 0-2 f, A Dorgan, S O’Brien, N Murphy, B Collins, D Davis 0-1 each
Scorers for Limerick: C Hickey 2-3 (0-2 f), P Aherne 0-2, J Galvin, N Hunt, D Reidy 0-1 each
CORK: K O’Dwyer; M O’Donovan, D Wiseman, S Óg Ó hAilpín; C O’Sullivan, E Sexton, M Cronin; N Murphy, M O’Sullivan; D Davis, J Kavanagh, A Dorgan; P Clifford, S O’Brien, B Collins.
Subs: K Daly for O’Donovan, P O’Mahony for Dorgan, F Collins for O’Sullivan, F Murray for Davis, G Canty for Wiseman.
LIMERICK: E Scollard; T McGarry, P Windle, S Lucey; C Mullane, J Stokes, D Reidy; J Galvin, J Quane; P Aherne, D Murphy, T Carroll; M Reidy, N Hunt, C Hickey.
Referee: S Beirne (Roscommon)