THE one thing you will always get from this writer is an honest opinion of what is happening in a game.
I met a lot of Cork people going into this game who felt I said it as it was last week — others may have a different opinion and I appreciate that too, but I can only give my own.
Last Friday, I fancied Cork to beat Limerick and my reason for that is I believed these Cork players would not be as poor as they were against Tipperary.
They are not called Rebels for nothing, and they proved that in the Gaelic Grounds — and they could have won by a lot more, the score was flattering to Limerick.
I was hard on the Cork management team and players last week as I felt they did not bring the intensity or aggression that is required for the Munster championship but boy did they make up for it. Despite the referee, Paudie O’Dwyer, who had a poor game, as regards Cork anyway.
This is the second time I have seen a referee from Leinster not doing a good job — do they understand Munster championship hurling at all and what it’s all about?
Surely we have enough quality referees in Munster that should be getting these games! Maybe the powers that be might look at that.
To John Meyler, Kieran Fraggy Murphy, and Donal O’Mahony — ye got everything right before and during this game.
Ye made four changes from last week, and maybe a lot of people questioned that, but they are not questioning it now, as Robert Downey, Mark Ellis, Aidan Walsh, and Bill Cooper all played a crucial role in this victory.
Especially Downey and Ellis, who played as good old-fashioned defenders should play, stopping the ball going through, putting Limerick’s half-forward line out of the game, because they did the one thing which every defender should do, they marked their men.
You do not need too many stats or complications for that!
Also Mark Coleman was back to his best, picking up any pieces that fell and delivering some great ball.
I suppose the man that showed real leadership in this defence was the brilliant Eoin Cadogan. It doesn’t matter what way you want to play it, he doesn’t mind mixing it and the tougher it gets the better he likes it — he doesn’t mind using a few verbals as well if he has to.
Niall O’Leary for the second week in a row was sound — how sound he was? His marker, Peter Casey, was taken off.
O’Leary was like a terrier on Casey. It isn’t the size of the man in the fight at all, it’s the size of the fight in the man!
The one man under pressure was Sean O’Donoghue, who found Graeme Mulcahy hard to handle. One of the ‘off’ days for Sean, but fair play to John Meyler and the management team, they made a vital switch at half time bringing on the experienced Stephen McDonnell.
He completely got on top of Mulcahy and cut out that threat. He used all his experience as the backs limited Limerick to eight points in the second half.
But I said during the week that Cork needed three players to perform way better than they did last Sunday and boy did they do that — two of them anyway, and the third, Conor Lehane, got injured after a few minutes, and he was looking good and already on the scoreboard. He was a huge loss, but then again his replacement, Alan Cadogan, had a great game.
He caused massive problems for the Limerick defence with his pace and accuracy and boldness and got some great scores — not an easy thing to do against this Limerick defence.
Aiden Walsh also caused massive problems for Limerick with his unselfish running and laying off the ball to better-positioned colleagues. I know he gets some stick in Cork for not being a pure natural hurler, but his work-rate was outstanding and that can make up for a lot of deficiencies.
Seamus Harnedy also showed great leadership and I’d say that when he gets fully fit he will be even better. He looks to me like a player who is carrying an injury.
Patrick Horgan, of course, would hurl on a saucer for you but his free-taking wasn’t as spot on as it usually is, but no doubt about it, he took the goal brilliantly. Talk about the right man in the right place.
I have named a lot of Cork players here, and there is a reason for that as this was a team performance — a unity of purpose.
Darragh Fitzgibbon, who I said Cork needed a big performance from, as his running and scoring ability causes Limerick problems... Darragh was nearly back to his best yesterday.
Luke Meade may be a bit unlucky to be taken off but that’s the strength of this panel.
My Man of the Match was a man I said should up his performance this week and get back to his best form of last year — Daniel Kearney. He was all over the field, always available and always supporting his teammates, and scoring at will.
A very difficult player to play against, he is the engine of this team, and when he is going well Cork are very hard to stop. His scores were top drawer.
Declan Dalton, when he came on, got two great points, and he looks a slimmed down man. Management must have worked hard on his fitness — another young player with a bright future.
Finally, I was critical of Cork’s management last week in that they showed no aggression on the sideline, but they made up for that, especially Kieran ‘Fraggy’ Murphy.
He was willing to take everyone on in Limerick and showed that passion and reaction that is needed to be seen by players on the field. He was really pumped up, and so was his team.
Limerick still have a fear of Cork as I said before and that does not go away overnight. They have every reason to be, but like Cork the previous Sunday they are still in this championship.
They were very flat in this game, and that can happen, especially when you are All-Ireland champions and League champions, but they have to find a way out of that, which won’t be easy.
Still, everything to play for in Munster.