John Horgan on hurling: Cork's summer could be over by May

Hope is not lost yet but huge improvement is needed by the time the Rebels face Clare in two weeks
John Horgan on hurling: Cork's summer could be over by May

Cork's Seamus Harnedy and Diarmuid Byrnes of Limerick rise for possession. Harnedy is a puck-out option for the Rebels but the other forwards can't match that. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

THERE is no point in beating around the bush when reflecting on Limerick’s latest championship drubbing of Cork.

This was another very serious defeat for Kieran Kingston’s team and the entire exercise at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday provided far more questions than answers.

The only morsel of consolation for Cork supporters is that all is not yet lost and there are three games remaining in this Munster championship to ensure summertime will not end in the month of May.

However, the steepness of the hill becomes far more intimidating now and two of those three games are in the homes of Waterford and Tipperary, Walsh Park and Semple Stadium. And as we all know, Cork won’t have the benefit of home advantage either against Clare in their next assignment, because of the Ed Sheerin concerts.

That’s Sunday week in Thurles, an encounter now takes on immense significance. In fact, that’s a must-win game and anything less could have very serious consequences. At least Cork have an extra week to right the many wrongs in the loss to a Limerick team that have already laid down a significant marker in their bid to win the provincial and All-Ireland titles again. 

Cork supporters were once again heading for the exit gates long before the final whistle last Sunday scratching their heads. The margin at the end was 11 points, five less than it was in Croke Park last August.

That should, however, be of no consolation to anybody on Leeside because, in truth, as it was that day in Dublin, the Limerick winning margin should have been a lot more. It hardly mattered that Limerick’s final delivery was at times too wayward, 16 wides an illustration of that.

Cian Lynch hits a point from his knees. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Lynch hits a point from his knees. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

On a day of very few positives for the Cork management, whirlwind starts to both halves which yielded a Shane Kingston goal after just 17 seconds and four unanswered points at the beginning of the second half could not be built on; Limerick strolled into the winner’s enclosure.

The subs bench was emptied, a few of the players that were introduced firing over some fine points, a brace of them from the stick of young Cathal O’Neill who is rated so highly on Shannonside.

All of Limerick’s big guns exerted their superiority over their markers with Diarmaid Byrnes, quite rightly, being handed the Man of the Match award from his wing-back slot. Kyle Hayes and Aaron Gillane rattled home the goals, scores that were far too easily conceded.

In total, Limerick had 12 scorers with four of the starting six defenders getting their names on the scoresheet. Their ability to respond so quickly to any positivity from Cork, shows their confidence.

Cork were just too sloppy too often and in the tackle their opponents were far superior again. It was a difficult day for too many Cork players.

Maybe if the goal opportunity that came about just before the interval had been converted by Conor Lehane it would have been a very timely lift. But that wasn’t to be and after Limerick had responded to that early second-half scoring burst there was only going to be one outcome.

You can be writing until the cows come home about the need for change but the real facts of the matter are, Cork do not have the depth in resources that other countries, Waterford and Limerick, in particular, have.

Rob Downey should start against Clare, Seamus Harnedy’s experience will be crucial and Alan Connolly might come in if he shows up well in training, training sessions that take on added importance as well.

You certainly do not want to be heading into the bearpit that is Walsh Park without a win. And thereafter having to go to Thurles to face Tipp who might well be in the same boat as far as qualification for the All-Ireland series is concerned.

Cork scored just 1-9 from open play over the 70-plus minutes on Sunday and that’s certainly not an encouraging statistic. Nine times out of 10 a return similar to that will ensure that you will come out on the losing side.

Cork did not score from play in the last 24 minutes of regulation time and to be brutally honest, Limerick were just going through the motions late on.

Look, nobody expected Cork to win last Sunday playing against the best team in the country since Kilkenny were at the peak of their powers. But what Cork supporters want now is a response the next day.

Clare play Tipperary next weekend and that becomes a huge game now. Another Tipp loss could be curtains for them in this Munster championship with Limerick still to play.

Cork might not be playing but will be keeping a very close eye on the proceedings in Thurles.

Limerick and Waterford look odds-on to be two of the three counties to emerge into the All-Ireland series. That was the forecast from the outset and now Cork must do everything within their power that they can still be the best of the rest.

On Sunday’s evidence that won't be easy.

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