Cork 2-18 Limerick 1-16
Cork coped with 14 men in the closing quarter-of-an-hour to reach the All-Ireland football quarter-finals after a hard-fought win over Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday.
Having been in the thick of the relegation issues in Division Two until the very end, Cork have now managed to make it through to the last-eight of the championship, though interim manager John Cleary is wary of what lies ahead.
“We’re in the draw that’s the main thing, but we’re up against the big boys the next day and it’s going to be really tough,” he said.
Limerick also had their card problems and didn’t handle the absence of defender Gordon Brown, who was black carded after 42 minutes, very well, conceding 1-3 to give Cork control of the scoreboard.
The goal came a couple of minutes from the end of Brown’s stay in the sin-bin as Cathail O’Mahony cut in from the right and finished coolly with a low shot. Cork swept 1-13 to 0-10 in front, playing against the strong wind.
“The black card was costly and was the difference in the end,” said disappointed Limerick manager Billy Lee. “I didn’t see what happened, but my understanding is Gordon body-checked one of the Cork players.”
Battling Limerick, though, fought back to create an exciting finale after Brian Donovan stuck a screamer into the top right corner of goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin’s net just before the hour to make it a three-point game.
Almost immediately Adrian Enright curled over his fourth point from play, but the visitors scorned a glorious opportunity from a free to reduce the deficit to the minimum as Cork substitute Paul Walsh picked up a second yellow card in quick succession, only just having arrived on the pitch.
Limerick couldn’t capitalise, however, because Cork surged up field to rip the defence apart for the magnificent Kevin O’Donovan to pull the trigger for a certain goal, only to be hauled down by substitute Paul Maher.
It was a clearcut penalty and captain Brian Hurley made no mistake with a low shot to the right of goalkeeper Donal O’Sullivan, who dived to the other side.
Cork now had a five-point cushion after 64 minutes and despite another seven more added on for injuries and substitutions, were able to answer their opponents point-for-point.
The opening half was in total contrast to the second as Cork struggled to make use of the howling wind blowing into the Blackrock end and were fortunate to be 0-8 to 0-7 in front.
Steven Sherlock continued his impressive form with the bulk of the scores while Enright was Limerick’s scorer-in-chief, although they would regret six wides.
The sides were level four times in the period and a further three more on the resumption before Cork’s pace at the back began to tell.
The outstanding Seán Powter pointed the way with some dashing runs for the likes of O’Donovan and wing backs John Cooper ad Mattie Taylor to emulate.
Now it’s all eyes on Monday morning’s draw while Limerick can look forward to a repeat meeting in the second tier next season.
CORK: MA Martin; S Powter, M Shanley, K O’Donovan (0-1); J Cooper, R Maguire, M Taylor; C O’Callaghan (0-1), I Maguire; J O’Rourke (0-3), E McSweeney (0-2), D Dineen; S Sherlock (0-8, five frees, one 45), B Hurley (capt) (1-2, 1-0 penalty), C O’Mahony (1-0).
Subs: J Cahalane for Dineen (52 mins), P Walsh for McSweeney (60), C Kiely for Sherlock (68), D Gore (0-1) for O’Mahony (70), T Walsh for O’Donovan (inj, 74).
LIMERICK: D O’Sullivan (jt-capt); J Liston, B Fanning, M Donovan; C Sheehan (0-1), I Corbett, (jt-capt), G Brown (0-2); D Treacy, C Fahy; A Enright (0-4), B Donovan (1-0), P de Brun; P Nash, R Bourke (0-1), H Bourke (0-5, three frees).
Subs: J Naughton (0-1) for De Brun (h-t) J Ryan (0-2) for Nash, P Maher for Brown and M Donovan for Liston (both 55), K Ryan for R Bourke (66).
Referee: J Henry (Mayo).