Cork survived a second-half Limerick revival to record their second win of the league and, in the process, inflict a first defeat on the All-Ireland champions – in either league or championship – since June 17 of last year.
With Cork having managed just one point between the 45th and 67th minute, a period during which Limerick came from seven behind to draw level, John Meyer’s charges clipped three injury-time points, through Cormac Murphy, Daniel Kearney and Conor Lehane, to take the two points on offer.
Limerick, as they needed to do, began the second-half promisingly and reeled off four unanswered points from Peter Casey, Dowling (free), Diarmuid Byrnes (free) and Seamus Flanagan to cut the deficit to two points (1-13 to 1-11).
Cork’s Dan Dooley stemmed the flow of Limerick scores with a fine on-the-run effort in front of the Mackey Stand and thereafter, Limerick, as they did in the opening half, let themselves down with a succession of wides.
The Treaty management were left further irate after a Nickie Quaid short puck-out went array and ended with a Conor Lehane goal on 45 minute goal. That sent the Rebels 2-15 to 1-11 clear, but they’d manage only one further score in the subsequent 21 minutes. They were back firing late on and that Cork registered five of the game’s last seven scores was pivotal in taking them first across the line.
Cork held a 1-13 to 1-7 interval lead, with their advantage having stretched to as great as nine points 10 minutes from the interval break. The visitors to the Gaelic Grounds led by 1-10 to 0-4 at that juncture and the sizeable gap separating the sides stemmed from Cork’s lightening opening which was built on a ferocious work rate which unsettled the home side and forced John Kiely’s troops into a litany of uncharacteristic mistakes.
Patrick Horgan’s ninth minute goal, having caught the ball in behind Tom Condon, was the key score of that opening period, with Cork 1-6 to 0-2 ahead come the 12th minute.
Debutant Dan Dooley’s 21st minute point meant five of Cork’s starting six forwards had scored from open play and when Tim O’Mahony converted a free standing on his own ‘45 metre line it brought the number of Cork scorers to seven. Aidan Walsh, among those scorers, was doing untold damage in the air, breaking a number of deliveries which ended in Cork white flags.
Limerick were struggling with their radar at the other end of the Gaelic Grounds and had tallied seven wides by the 18th minute mark. Shane Dowling was struggling from the placed ball, hitting wide two fress and a ‘65. A Peter Casey goal on 26 minutes brought Limerick back into proceedings, with the last six scores of the half evenly split.
The second-half was far tighter, with Cork just shading the verdict.
Scorers for Limerick: P Casey (1-3); S Dowling (0-6, 0-3 frees), D Byrnes (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65); S Flanagan (0-2); T Morrissey, G Hegarty, C Lynch (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan (1-9, 0-9 frees); C Lehane (1-1); C Murphy, D Kearney, S Harnedy, D Dooley (0-2 each); T O’Mahony (0-1 free), B Cooper, A Walsh (0-1 each).
Limerick: N Quaid; R English, S Finn, T Condon; D Byrnes, D Hannon, M O’Brien; C Lynch, D O’Donovan; G Hegarty, S Dowling, T Morrissey; P Casey, S Flanagan, P Ryan.
Subs: G Mulcahy for Ryan (48 mins); B Murphy for Flanagan (56); K Hayes for T Morrissey (67); B Nash for O’Brien (69)
Cork: P Collins; S McDonnell, E Cadogan, S O’Donoghue; C Joyce, T O’Mahony, R Downey; C Murphy, B Cooper; D Dooley, S Harnedy, D Kearney; P Horgan, A Walsh, C Lehane.
Subs: J O’Connor for Dooley (61 mins); C Cahalane for Downey (64)
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).