Cork’s pre-season competitive winning streak saw them secure their 10th McGrath Cup title and their first in five years, as the men in red beat Limerick at Mallow on Friday night.
The Leesiders returned to the scene of their last McGrath Cup triumph, (2018), led from start to finish, but needed to dig deep in the second period – pulling off a solid second half performance that the losing side just couldn’t cope with.
Led on the field by captain Brian Hurley, corner-forward Steven Sherlock and the ever-running Sean Potter, Cork started well, fighting for the last 15 before the interval but pushed into the second period on an almost perfect night for football .
Castlehaven’s Rory Maguire impressed in place of Ian Maguire in the central third as did home boy Matty Taylor at wing-back.
For Limerick, captain Ian Corbett was hugely impressive, but on this night he could not pull his side through against a Cork team who were ready to run and rise for every challenge on the field.
Early shadow boxing, a pair of frees from Sherlock and wides from Limerick summed up its opening five minutes, as the sides saw openings in the opposition defence.
Cork looked to push as Limerick found their feet with Brian O’Driscoll the Rebels’ second addition as the game seemed to seek a better, more uptempo pace. Freed from Sherlock again with another treaty party finding the wrong side of the posts.
Cork found their first pair wide soon after, but Chris Ogg Jones settled the men in red and was next on the score-sheet as Limerick sat back for an on-rushing Cork midfield.
Hurley got into the act with a delicious score just after the quarter hour mark before Limerick center forward Cian Sheehan hit the target with the first shot – Cork were not to panic and a brilliant effort from Hurley (a mark) saw Cork score five points Were in for good with 20 on the clock.
Limerick were thrown a lifeline four minutes later when awarded a penalty – captain Ian Corbett made no mistake – with the same player reducing the margin to a minimum soon after with a long-range effort from play.
Sherlock and Cillian Fahey traded scores before the interval and Cork only led by one (0-7 to 1-3) at the half time chat – not a very good start considering the start.
Cork got back into the groove on the restart with a brace of Hurley points, but Sheehan put his side ahead with his second point free of the night.
Sherlock was on to lift the white (four more frees), with Limerick struggling to hit the target when the score looked a more likely result. Hurley again hit the target after a quick run and it seemed there were still 20 left on the clock.
Limerick came back with the green flag for the second time in the game, this time Davy Lyons hitting the target, but Cork and Hurley in particular were not to let this one pass and saw the game see Limerick end the challenge. Some points with
The six-point victory was nothing short of overwhelming to Cork and manager John Cleary will be pleased with the win and performance, however Cork still have a lot of work to do as they prepare for the league and first up in that competition is Meath next weekend.
Cork: MA Martin (Nemo Rangers); T Clancy (Clonakilty), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers); L Fahey (Ballincollig), S Potter (Douglas), M Taylor (Mallow); C O’Callaghan (Éire OG) 0-1, R Maguire (Castlehaven), E McSweeney (Nocknagree); K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), B O’Driscoll (Tadhg mac Carthagh) 0-1, C og Jones (Evalerie) 0-1; B Hurley (Castlehaven) 0-7 (1f, 1 mark), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) 0-7f, C Kelly (Éire OG) sub: C Keely for L Fahey (30BS, reverse HT), T Walsh (Kunturk) for D O’Mahony, S Meehan (Kiskeem) for T Clancy (both HT), J O’Rourke (Carberry Rangers) e K 0-2 for McSweeney (53), K O’Hanlon (62) for R Dean (Bantry Blues), P Walsh (Kantark) for S Potter (70), M Cronin (Nemo) for S Sherlock (71), S R Maguire (72) for Merritt (Mallow)
Limerick: Dee O’Sullivan; D Connolly, D Lyons 1-0, B Coleman; B Fanning, I Corbett 1-1 (1-0 pen), J Ryan; M Donovan, C Fahey 0-1; G Brown, C Sheehan 0-4f, P Maher; A Enright, C Downes, J Naughton sub: R Burke 0-1 for Ryan (50), K Ryan for Lyon and P Nash for Brown (both 66), C McSweeney for B Coleman (71)
Ref: Brian Fleming (Kerry)