NOT the result that Cork wanted, despite getting off to the perfect start with a goal from Shane Kingston after just 17 seconds.
Before Limerick could draw a breath the Rebels had added two points. But they are not the champions for nothing and with a couple of frees from Diarmaid Byrnes, they worked their way into the game and showed just why they are going for three in a row.
One thing that you certainly couldn’t question yesterday was their desire to win with the conductor of the orchestra, Cian Lynch, in the faces of Cork at every opportunity and leading by example.
Does he play on the edge? Absolutely, but a lot of winners do. He may not have been too influential on the scoreboard in the first half, with just a point, but he was certainly key to their game-plan. Cork had to keep a close eye on him and that left the way open for others to cut through the defence.
Of course, you can’t gift any side two goals, as Cork did. The first was a little unlucky when Damien Cahalane slipped at the wrong time; give Kyle Hayes an inch and he will take a mile.
By the time Hayes, moved from his usual wing-back slot, was withdrawn the damage was done. Cork simply couldn’t match the physicality of Limerick who blew them away time after time.
They turned over the ball, forced Cork into mistakes, and add in a number of unforced ones and bar the early stages Cork played second fiddle all through.
In fairness to Robert Downey when he came on he kept Hayes a bit quieter and Alan Connolly tried to make his physical presence felt up front.
But the reality is they were simply better all over the pitch and Cork had no answer. Not so long ago the former Cork hurling star Tomás Mulcahy, when asked about the league final said ‘it’s only the league and championship is a different animal’. Well, that was the case as the champions had a poor league and already have shown they are going to take some stopping not just to come out on top in Munster but also in the All-Ireland series.
This was a real team performance from Limerick but Byrnes was superb and was deservedly named Man of the Match afterward.
Sadly for Cork, another loss to Limerick throws up more questions than it does answers, and where to go from here is the question. That was the Rebels' only ‘home’ game with their tie against Clare moving to Thurles in a fortnight. That is now a game they simply have to win and try to answer some of the many questions at this point.
What’s our best full-back line? Where should Mark Coleman and Ciarán Joyce play? Should Tim O’Mahony be moved to the half-forward line to bring his strength and aerial ability up front?
These are just some of the things that Cork will have to think about and think about fast. No player, or manager, ever goes out to lose at this level and you can guarantee that the management and team are hurting now. But what’s needed now is a response against Clare and an emphatic one.
They can’t afford anything less and hopefully, the hurt from this loss will drive them on to ensure we get back on track in two weeks.