Cork scrape past Limerick

July 22, 2006
Defending champions Cork had to fight all the way for a 0-19 to 0-18 All-Ireland SHC quarter-final defeat of plucky Limerick at Semple Stadium. The winners never hit top form but managed to do just enough and remain on course for a third successive Liam McCarthy victory. Limerick pushed the Rebels to the pin of their collective collars and seemed capable of completing an unlikely victory when striking five points on the trot at the start of the fourth quarter, to leave match evenly balanced with just a point in it. However, Cork dug deep … as they always appear to do. Crafty Cork did just about enough in a subdued first half to carve upon a useful half-time lead, going into the interval with a 0-11 to 0-6 advantage. Limerick stayed with them in many departments in that period but the underdogs really needed a goal to unsettle the All-Ireland champions and such a score was not forthcoming against a well-drilled and sound defence, with full back Diarmuid O'Sullivan leading by example. Worryingly for Limerick, they created only eight scoring opportunities in those opening 35 minutes. Neil Ronan typified the Rebel County's composed and confident first-half showing with three super points from play and the Leesiders held a clear ascendancy at midfield, with Jerry O'Connor (0-2) and Tom Kenny as solid as ever. Joe Deane also pointed three first-half frees. Cork were first out for the second half and - within 90 seconds - had stretched their lead to double scores through Ben O'Connor's second point of the day. O'Connor then lethargically dropped a easy-looking free short before Niall Moran's second point (over his left shoulder) reduced the arrears. Joe Deane worked overtime out the field to place Jerry O'Connor for Cork's thirteenth point but a poor refereeing decision, when Ronan Curran was harshly penalised, gifted Andrew O'Shaughnessy with a simple point from a free. Jerry O'Connor's deft handpass picked out Brian Corcoran and the Cork full forward drilled a powerful shot across the face of goal from a near-impossible angle. It was a close shave for the Shannonsiders in the 47th minute. Centre forward Mike O'Brien stormed through the Cork defence for Limerick's next score - an impressive point hot on the heels of two Rebel wides. Deane popped one over from play when he might well have gone for goal and Ben O'Connor followed up with a point from a free as the heavens opened at Thurles and the rain began to gush down. Substitute Pat Tobin's point at the start of the final quarter kept Limerick within five, 0-15 to 0-10, and dual star Conor Fitzgerald closed the gap further with a beautiful point from play. Cork had seemed content to play within themselves all evening but questions were now being asked of them. Two points within a minute, including a ricocheted Tobin effort had Limerick within two points on 56 minutes. The 10-1 outsiders had registered four successive scores and now looked the most likely winners. Niall Moran's fourth point reduced the margin to the minimum and Cork were clearly rattled as Deane clipped a scoreable free wide of the target. Ben O'Connor also pulled a free wide with nine minutes remaining and , with his 100% championship record under threat, Cork boss John Allen made his first change, introducing Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields). A massive Ben O'Connor free presented Cork with their first score in twelve minutes and Tobin's effort at the other end slipped inches wide from a tight angle. When Corcoran was knocked to the ground bearing down on goal, Cork were awarded a penalty and, bizarrely, Diarmuid O'Sullivan was twice attacked by Limerick players as he came upfield to take it with a different sliothar. Eventually, the full back returned to his station and Deane popped the ball over the bar. O'Shaughnessy (free) responded immediately and Mark Foley brought the gap right down to the minimum, 0-17 to 0-16, with a 70th-minute free. Three minutes of injury time were called and Ben O'Connor frustratingly saw his shot come back off an upright. But the No.13 then slammed over an inspirational score from distance - his fifth - to give Cork slight breathing space. Limerick wouldn't lie down. Mark Keane split the posts as the outsiders hit back but it was tit for tat and Niall McCarthy traded points with O'Brien in the third minute of added time. There were a lot of relieved Cork people in Semple Stadium when the long whistle sounded with the Rebels still ahead by the odd point from 37. Cork - D Cusack; P Mulcahy, D O'Sullivan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, S Og O hAilipin; T Kenny 0-2, J O'Connor 0-1; T McCarthy, N McCarthy 0-2, N Ronan 0-3; B O'Connor 0-3, B Corcoran 0-3, J Deane 0-5). Subs - K Murphy (Sarsfields) for T McCarthy. Limerick - B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, S Hickey; O Moran, B Geary, M Foley 0-1; B Foley, D Ryan; N Moran 0-4, M O'Brien 0-2, TJ Ryan 0-1; A O'Shaughnessy 0-5, B Begley, C Fitzgerald 0-2. Subs - D O'Grady for D Ryan, P Tobin 0-2 for Begley, M Keane 0-1 for B Foley.

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