Cork's young hurlers had no answer to power and experience of Limerick 

Huge room for improvement if the Rebels are to upset the odds on July 3
Cork's young hurlers had no answer to power and experience of Limerick 

Limerick’s Mark Quinlan, Adrian Breen, William O’Donoghue and Cian Lynch surround Sean O’Leary Hayes. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

FROM the start of the Lidl Ladies Football League, Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald has said that their focus is on the championship and the league is very much secondary to that.

He wants his side to peak in a couple of weeks against Meath and Tipperary and on to the quarter-finals after that.

Given Limerick's poor start to the league before Saturday night, you'd have suspected manager John Kiely was thinking the same way.  That theory was quickly dispelled as they hit six points in the first seven minutes in the Gaelic Grounds and Cork didn't know what way to turn.

Cork simply couldn't afford to take the league lightly and their performances to date have shown this. Two wins and a draw put them in confident mood coming into this encounter.

But by half-time they were shell-shocked as Limerick were by far the better side. Ten points up at that stage and it could have been more were it not for some wayward shooting that saw Limerick notch 11 wides in the opening half.

To say they were intent on laying down a marker ahead of their championship tie is probably a bit of an understatement as they outclassed Cork, who had no answer, particularly in the first half.

Cork’s Billy Hennessy and Ger Millerick dejected after the defeat. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Cork’s Billy Hennessy and Ger Millerick dejected after the defeat. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

They had Cork's game-plan worked out as they pushed up on Patrick Collins' puck-outs as the Rebels tried to play it short and out of defence that way. 

They gave the full-back line no time on the ball and on far too many occasions Cork gave the ball away under massive pressure from the Limerick forwards.

Then when he tried to go long the Limerick half-back line cleaned up ball after ball and it took until the 29th minute before Cork won a long puck-out cleanly, with Tadhg Deasy then putting his shot wide.

During that half, Limerick had three spells where they hit four, five and then six points in a row without reply.

At half-time, Kieran Kingston and his selectors must have been scratching their heads as to how to turn this one around.

They turned to the bench with Patrick Horgan, Niall Cashman and Luke Meade coming on to try and steady the ship.

To some extent, they did with Cork outscoring Limerick by 1-12 to 13 points but the damage had well and truly been done by then.

A repeat of that first-half performance in the championship at the start of July and it will be a long and lonely road home from Thurles for the Rebels.

This heavy defeat has confirmed a number of things for Cork, without the likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Alan Cadogan, Luke Meade and Patrick Horgan starting we will be in trouble.

The younger players are showing promise, in particular Alan Connolly and Jack O'Connor, but others are still learning their trade and only time will get them to be where they need to be.

Cork can take some consolation from the fact they did 'win' the second-half but again that was when they had introduced some of their experienced players, something that Kingston probably didn't want to do.

In contrast, Kiely had the luxury of leaving many who will come in for the championship on the sidelines as they cruised to a win they thoroughly deserved.

This defeat is a setback for Cork and one they need to respond to against Galway next Sunday before they then turn their attentions to the championship in a few weeks.

Seam Twomey of Cork and Limerick goalkeeper Barry Hennessy after the game. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Seam Twomey of Cork and Limerick goalkeeper Barry Hennessy after the game. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

It is never easy to win at the Gaelic Grounds and Limerick would have been wounded after their previous losses.

Hopefully, Cork will use it as an incentive to get one over on the All-Ireland champions come the championship.

If they do then all will be forgiven and forgotten, but Cork have a lot to do ahead of that game on this showing.

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