Yesterday Limerick succumbed to a heavy 1-26 to 1-19 defeat at the hands of Cork in the LIT Gaelic Grounds as they got their All-Ireland defence off to the worst possible start.
Limerick lead at the break but were completely dominated by Cork in the second half as the rebels were full value for their seven-point win.
In the wake of the game, we look at the main talking points from the LIT Gaelic Grounds.
Limerick lose aerial battle
Last summer Limerick were continuously praised for their ability to win primary possession from their puckouts. With targets of Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey to choose from, Nickie Quaid had constant outlets to hit from puck outs.
However, in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday this was rarely evident as Cork completely neutralised the Limerick half-forward line. Majority of the time the Cork defence, anchored brilliantly by Mark Ellis didn’t engage aerially, instead opting to break the ball down for the incoming Cork bodies.
The return of Bill Cooper, who was tireless in his running and the work of half forwards ensured that Limerick won no easy ball and thus lead to rushed shooting and plenty of incidents of dispossession.
On the flip side, Cork found their forwards far more easily from puckouts with their trio of half forwards making far more clever runs with Seamus Harnedy picked out straight down the middle on a couple of occasions.
Cork also utilised short puckouts with their full back line able to pick out the likes of Patrick Horgan and Alan Cadogan with long direct balls down the touchline.
Daniel Kearney comes up trumps for Cork
Last summer, Limerick defeated Cork in a classic in Croke Park after extra time despite trailing by six with as many minutes remaining. With ten minutes remaining, Daniel Kearney, who had been hugely influential throughout, was withdrawn with an injury. In his absence, Cork succumbed to a second consecutive All-Ireland semi-final defeat.
Yesterday, the diminutive half-forward was back to his very best, but this time for the 70+ minutes. The Sarsfield’s man was everywhere for Cork, akin to the Limerick forwards of last summer who set the tone for their team.
He disrupted the Limerick forwards and was a constant outlet for his defenders to begin attacks for the energetic and dangerous Cork forward unit.
He was a nuisance to the Limerick half-back line who didn’t know whether to follow Kearney or let him drop deep which he did to such devastating effect.
Yet, it wasn’t just his industry that made him stand out as he also picked off four points from play in an imperious display.
How different it could have been for John Meyler’s side had he been able to finish out the game for the rebels last July and yesterday he proved just how important he is to the team once again in 2019.
Limerick abandon the process late on
When Limerick fell behind by six with 64 minutes on the clock, memories flooded back from that year’s famous revival against Cork last summer in Croker.
However, this time around there was a very different atmosphere with Cork failing to panic as Limerick went the opposite way as they did in July, where instead of sticking to the game plan, they began to launch aimless balls into the full-forward line and became desperate in their search of a goal where points were their route to victory last summer.
In their quest to get back into the game, Limerick abandoned much of their defensive duties and allowed the likes of Patrick Horgan and Darragh Fitz to saunter into scoring positions from which they picked off easy scores to secure the win.
The ball into the Limerick forwards in the second half yesterday were often misjudged or inaccurate as Limerick struggled enormously to get into their rhythm. The much-vaunted half-back line of Byrnes, Hannon and Morrissey were largely anonymous yesterday and it told on the shoreline with Limerick only scoring 1-19, with a meagre 1-7 coming from play.
Limerick will have to ensure that their players are in sync heading to Walsh Park as a similar performance will see them all but eliminated from the championship.
Waterford is a must win
The trip to Walsh Park was never going to be easy for Limerick and it certainly has only gotten harder after yesterday’s action.
Limerick will now travel to a hostile stadium in a must win game if they are to even get out of Munster in their All-Ireland defence.
They are also facing a Waterford side who are without a win from their opening two games and will be playing for pride more than anything which is dangerous from a Limerick point of view.
This game will be highly charged, and Limerick will have to ensure that they have the right level of aggression and quality to come away with a result.
However, this exact group of players last summer so often demonstrated just that.