Dónal Óg Cusack believes Limerick have firmly re-established themselves as hurling's leading contenders after crushing Cork on Saturday.

The reigning double-champions got off the mark in the Allianz League with an eight-point win that could have been bigger but for 20 wides.

"Limerick have sent out a message," said the former Cork 'keeper.

"Limerick are back now as absolute favourites for the All-Ireland. Maybe there were a couple of question marks but that happens when you’re champions.

"Everyone is going to be focused on the team that are going for three in-a-row (in four years), looking for cracks and wondering if they’re not as good as they were previously.

"But I think now they’ve set down a marker."

Cusack suggested the Rebels wouldn’t press the panic button given the youth (14 players were 24 or under) of their starting line-up.

"I don’t think Cork will lose too much sleep over it. It was a young team playing against a lot of marquee players.

"But there are definitely a lot of learnings."

Before the game, Cusack and former Limerick Shane Dowling discussed fouling and high free counts in hurling, with the Cloyne man arguing that while referees are right to clamp down on free-arm tackling they shouldn’t be giving attacking players a pass on the four-step rule either.

Watch below

Watch highlights of all the weekend's hurling action on League Sunday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm