Cork 0-19 Limerick 2-07
Cork completed their pre-season with a perfect record and a trophy as a six-point victory over Limerick, 0-19 to 2-07, earned them their first McGrath Cup since 2018.
It wasn't their best performance of the winter after big victories over Kerry and Clare, but they head for the Allianz Football League with confidence after captain Brian Hurley and Steven Sherlock shot seven points each.
After an eight-minute delay for crowd congestion between match traffic, bingo, and a quiz night for 500 kids at a busy Mallow GAA complex, Cork produced their best football in the opening minutes.
Limerick were giving up all sorts of frees early on. Picking the ball straight off the ground [twice] and overcarrying cost them three points, with Cork punishing them on the counter or through Sherlock's boot.
Their other points came from Brian O’Driscoll, Chris Óg Jones, and Hurley as the Rebels took an early 0-05 to nil lead.
A Cian Sheehan free had Limerick on the board after 18 minutes but Hurley cancelled that out from a mark at the other end.
Turnovers from the likes of Seán Powter, Matty Taylor, and Colm O’Callaghan were stopping Limerick’s attack at source but as Ray Dempsey’s side switched to slower build-up play and shorter kick-outs, they gained a foothold.
The big moment came in the 25th minute when Jack Ryan was fouled for a penalty by O’Driscoll as he chased Iain Corbett’s speculative pass across goal. Captain Corbett stepped up to send the ball past Mícheál Aodh Martin and when he added a trademark outside-of-the-boot point from the '45, the gap was back to one, 0-06 to 1-02.
They only added another point apiece from there to the break, a Sherlock free nullified by Cillian Fahy’s fisted point.
John Cleary made two full-back line changes at the break, Tommy Walsh and Seán Meehan in for Thomas Clancy and Daniel O’Mahony, but more significantly, Powter was moved up to centre-forward. His impact was felt immediately, involved in setting up two Hurley points.
After a Sheehan free, Sherlock kicked four in a row for Cork followed by Hurley’s fifth.
Then came the Limerick response. Sheehan struck his third free followed by a Davy Lyons goal in the 55th minute; the Adare attacker finding the net at the third attempt after his first two shots were blocked by Hurley, back on his own goal line, and Luke Fahy.
Jones struck a goal chance wide but still, there was to be no comeback, with Limerick counting the cost of their 12 wides.
Cork scored five of the final seven points, two from substitute John O’Rourke and Ruairí Deane setting up two more for Hurley, while O’Callaghan added a monster point.
Cork: MA Martin; T Clancy, D O’Mahony, K O’Donovan; L Fahy, S Powter, M Taylor; C O’Callaghan (0-01), R Maguire; E McSweeney, K O’Hanlon, B O’Driscoll (0-01); C Óg Jones (0-01), B Hurley (0-07, 1f, 1m), S Sherlock (0-07f).
Subs: C Kiely for Fahy (30-h-t, blood), T Walsh for O’Mahony (h-t), S Meehan Clancy (h-t), J O’Rourke (0-02) for McSweeney (52 mins), R Deane for O’Hanlon (62 mins), C Kiely for Fahy (67 mins), M Cronin for Sherlock (70+1 mins), P Walsh for Powter (70+1 mins), S Merritt for Maguire (70+3 mins).
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; D Connolly, B Fanning, M Donovan; B Coleman, I Corbett (1-01, 1-00 pen), J Ryan; C Downes, C Fahy (0-01); G Brown, C Sheehan (0-04f), P Maher; A Enright, D Lyons (1-00), J Naughton.
Subs: R Bourke (0-01) for Ryan (51 mins), P Nash for Brown (67 mins), K Ryan for Lyons (67 mins), C McSweeney for Coleman (70+1 mins).
Referee: B Fleming (Kerry).