Cork v Limerick: Hurling clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh will define the season

John Cashman looks back at the history of games between the Rebels and the Treaty on Leeside
Cork v Limerick: Hurling clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh will define the season

Mark Coleman of Cork and Graeme Mulcahy of Limerick tangle as linesman Paud O'Dwyer looks on in 2018. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

After events in Semple Stadium on Saturday evening in the Allianz League decider, Cork's focus is now very much on the Munster championship opener against All-Ireland champions Limerick on Sunday week.

A unique fixture, a Munster championship match on Easter Sunday, Cork aim to get off to a winning start against a Limerick outfit who drifted through their league campaign without too much concern. It will match number 70 in the cross-border championship rivalry with Cork historically holding a strong grip on the bragging rights with 46 wins. Limerick's McCarthy Cup triumph last summer was only win number 18 over the Rebels, while the sides have ended level on just five occasions.

It has been a mixed bag over the last few years here in Munster. A Limerick win in Thurles last year by 2-22 to 1-17 and a Rebel win in 2019 by 1-26 to 1-19 on Shannonside. A year earlier at sunny Páirc Uí Chaoimh the teams finished deadlocked: Cork 1-25 Limerick 0-28. 

However, the big two results were of course in Croke Park, last year's runaway final win following up Limerick's extra-time success in 2018 by 3-32 to 2-31.

Cork will be looking to make it four championship games unbeaten against Limerick on Leeside as they bid to follow up that aforementioned draw four years ago and the wins in both 2010 and then in 2014, in what was the last Munster hurling championship game in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Limerick incidentally were also involved in the historic first Munster final at the venue 38 years earlier. 

Despite a 4-1 personal tally from Eamon Cregan, Cork still won that day by 3-15 to 4-5.

It's now 21 years since Limerick last won on Leeside, 1-16 to 1-15.

However, it was Limerick's big success by 3-18 to 1-8 in the 1996 Munster quarter-final that was the real groundbreaking result - Cork's first home championship defeat since 1923. Padraig Tobin(2) and Owen O'Neill lit their names up in lights as goalscorers in the historic triumph.

Looking at the Cork-Limerick storyline since that inaugural clash at what was then the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1976, the teams have met at the venue on nine occasions in the intervening 46 years and the balance of power does reflect the overall historical trend. The Limerick wins in 1996 and 2001 and the 2018 draw are the only occasions Limerick avoided defeat. Leesiders were celebrating in 1976, '83, '85, '92, 2010 and 2014.

Cork's Seamus Harnedy celebrates his goal in front of the Cork fans against Limerick during the 2014 Munster final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Seamus Harnedy celebrates his goal in front of the Cork fans against Limerick during the 2014 Munster final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Overall, despite Limerick's improved success story in recent times, the Rebels have certainly given as good as they got in the current era. Since the turn of the millennium, Cork have won seven of the 13 championship meetings between the sides with Limerick victorious on five occasions. There was also that memorable draw in 2018. The balance of power though since 2010 is slightly tilted towards Limerick with four wins, to Cork's three and that one draw.

With such a galaxy of star players on view on Sunday week, the game should be a real feast for the fans and expect some exciting scoring exploits from right around the field. 

Tim O'Mahony, Mark Coleman and Cairán Joyce have all shown their long-range shooting during the league. Limerick's half-back line of Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Kyle Hayes have all made a huge impression in recent championship seasons. 

FIREPOWER

Midfield will provide plenty of firepower too as Darragh Fixtzgibbon has demonstrated this year, whilst further forward Patrick Horgan and Aaron Gilliane are bankers to have the radar in on big match days from placed balls. Cork in the current league and Limerick, all through this glorious era for them, have shown that they have a host of scoring options in the front six and off the bench.

Four years ago in the team's last championship meeting by the banks of the Lee, it took a late Hayes point to earn Limerick a draw after a thrilling 70 minutes. Tom Morrissey (0-9), had taken over free duties from Gillane, who received a first-half red card. Seamus Flanagan also had a big influence raising five white flags from play. 

Patrick Horgan was again top Cork marksman registering 1-11 of his team's total. Darragh Fitzgibbon, 0-4, and Conor Lehane (0-3) were next.

Just 11 more sleeps to the rematch of '22. Bring on the Championship on Easter Sunday!

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