CORK claimed their first McGrath Cup title in five years seeing off Limerick in Mallow on Friday night.
The Leesiders returned to the scene of their last McGrath Cup triumph, and deservedly saw off the men in green, thanks in large part to a solid second-half performance that the vanquished sides just couldn’t cope with.
Led on the field by captain Brian Hurley, corner-forward Steven Sherlock and the always-running Sean Powter, Cork started well, struggled for the last 15 before the interval but pushed in the second period on a near-perfect night for football.
Castlehaven’s Rory Maguire impressed in place of Ian Maguire in the middle third as did home boy Matty Taylor at wing-back.
For Limerick, Captain Ian Corbett was hugely influential but on this night he just couldn’t drag his side past a Cork team that were full of running and up for every challenge on the field.
Early shadow boxing, a free from Sherlock and a pair of wides from Limerick summed up the opening five minutes of this one as the sides looked to pry openings in the opposing defences.
Cork looked to push on as Limerick found their feet with Brian O’Driscoll adding the Rebels’ second as the game looked to be finding a better, more incisive pace.
Another free from Sherlock followed with the Treaty side again finding the wrong side of the posts.
Cork notched up their first pair of wides soon after but Chris Óg Jones settled the men in red and was next on the scoresheet as Limerick sat back for an onrushing Cork midfield.
Hurley got in on the act after the quarter-hour mark with a tasty score before Limerick centre-forward Cian Sheehan hit the target for the first time – Cork weren’t going to panic and a wonderful effort from Hurley (a mark) had Cork five points to the good with 20 on the clock.
Limerick were thrown a lifeline four minutes later when awarded a penalty – captain Ian Corbett making no mistake – the same player cutting the gap to the minimum soon after with a long-range effort from play.
Sherlock and Cillian Fahy traded scores before the interval with Cork heading to the half time chat up by just one (0-7 to 1-3) – not great considering the start.
Cork got back in the groove on the resumption with a brace of Hurley points but Sheehan kept his side moving forward with his second pointed free of the night.
Sherlock was next to raise white (four more frees) with Limerick struggling to hit the target when scores looked the more likely outcome. Hurley again hit the target after a surging run and this one looked to be done with 20 still left on the clock.
For the second time in the game Limerick hit back with a green flag, this time it was Davy Lyons that hit the target – But Cork were not to be denied and deservedly took the spoils by six.
S Sherlock 0-7 f, B Hurley 0-7 (0-1 f, 0-1 m), J O’Rourke 0-2, C O’Callaghan, B O’Driscoll, C Óg Jones 0-1 each.
I Corbett 1-1 (1-0 pen); C Sheehan 0-4 f, D Lyons 1-0; C Fahy 0-1, R Burke 0-1.
M A Martin (Nemo Rangers); T Clancy (Clonakilty), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers); L Fahy (Ballincollig), S Powter (Douglas), M Taylor (Mallow); C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), R Maguire (Castlehaven), E McSweeney (Knocknagree); K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), B O’Driscoll (Tadhg Mac Carthaigh), C Óg Jones (Iveleary); B Hurley (Castlehaven, c), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), C Kelly (Éire Óg).
C Kiely for L Fahy (30 bs, reversed h-t), T Walsh (Kanturk) for D O’Mahony, S Meehan (Kiskeam) for T Clancy (both h-t), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers) for E McSweeney (53), R Deane (Bantry Blues) for K O’Hanlon (62), P Walsh (Kanturk) for S Powter (70), M Cronin (Nemo) for S Sherlock (71), S Merritt (Mallow) for R Maguire (72).
D O’Sullivan; D Connolly, D Lyons, B Coleman; B Fanning, I Corbett (c), J Ryan; M Donovan, C Fahy; G Brown, C Sheehan, P Maher; A Enright, C Downes, J Naughton.
R Burke for Ryan (50), K Ryan for Lyons and P Nash for Brown (both 66), C McSweeney for B Coleman (71).
Brian Fleming (Kerry)