In front of over 11,000 fans in the Gaelic Grounds last night, Limerick had a hard-fought 0-16 to 1-11 victory against Cork to secure a 9th championship at the grade.
The game was by no means a classic as Limerick never got into their rhythm as Cork attempted to use their physical strength to find victory. In the end however Pat Donnelly’s side prevailed to spark joyous scenes on the Ennis Road.
With Limerick now looking ahead to a semi final against Galway on August 19, we reflect on the key talking points from the game.
Experienced players stood up when needed
In 2015 when Limerick stormed to the All Ireland U21 title, a raw nineteen-year-old Cian Lynch was instrumental for Limerick, acting as a link man between attack and defence.
A string of brilliant performances saw Lynch nominated for U21 player of the year alongside Diarmuid Byrnes and winner Richie English. Lynch has since continued to showcase his talents but has failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck for the U21 and senior sides.
That was until last night. When Limerick were under the cosh, Lynch was the man to win dirty ball and venture deep into the opposition half. Although he was kept scoreless, the Patrickswell man was key in winning ball and distributing it, akin to his role two years ago. His clubmate Aaron Gillane, an unused substitute in the final 2 years ago, was vital down the home stretch with his coolness from placed balls crucial to the victory.
Sean Finn, who was so impressive two years ago, lead from the back and kept senior star Shane Kingston quiet in the closing moments. 2015 medallists Colin Ryan and Robbie Hanley dominated midfield and gave Limerick the perfect platform early on in the game with Ryan imperious in the air. These players, all of whom with vast experience at the grade, were key to Limerick’s victory.
Quality of the bench key in the final minutes
From the 37th to the 56th minute of last nights game Cork held Limerick scoreless and reduced a seven point gap to two. Limerick looked in danger of losing a game that they should have won convincingly.
In the 42nd minute Kileedy’s Paudie Ahern was introduced in place of Peter Casey, who has already won an All Ireland Club title and All Ireland U21 Championship. It was a bold move from Donnelly to withdraw Casey who had been marked well by the Rebels.
Whilst Ahern didn’t score in his time on the pitch, he created more space around the pitch and stretched the Cork defence with his fresh legs. Conor Boylen and Barry Murphy were also introduced in the final quarter of an hour with the Na Piarsaigh man winning possession a number of times at wing forward.
The final substitution saw Lorcan Lyons replace Robbie Hanley. Lyons was named on John Kiely’s original Senior squad last winter and this shows the undoubted quality that Limerick have off the bench.
Oisin O’Reilly who bagged two goals in this fixture last year and Andrew La Touche Cosgrave who was also part of Kiely’s senior squad earlier this year were unused substitutes on the night but further highlight the depth of this Limerick squad. Despite none of the replacements getting on the scoresheet, they all played a part in the Limerick win and will no doubt play their part against Galway
Expectation dampens performance
Limerick came into the game as heavy favourites after two comprehensive victories over Tipperary and Clare in the previous two rounds. Cork on the other hand were overlooked due to the fact that they needed a stoppage time penalty to overcome Waterford in the semi. Allied to this, Cork were also missing two members of Shane Kingston’s senior squad with Darragh Fitzgibbon suspended and Luke Meade out with injury.
With a strong breeze at their back Limerick raced out to a 0-7 to no score lead early on. However, long passes from the back were not sticking up front and Limerick hit a number of uncharacteristic wides to keep the crowd uneasy.
Mark Coleman was deployed as a sweeper which prevented the potent attack of Casey, Morrissey and Nash of clean ball. When Cork grabbed the only goal of the game near the break, the crowd grow more anxious.
The second half followed a similar pattern as Limerick extended their lead early only to go 20 minutes without a score as Cork battled back to within two points of the Treatysiders. The nerves on the players were clearly evident as the wides tally built up. Yet Limerick found a way to come away with victory, a sign of a great team. With Galway next up, Limerick will know a better performance is needed.