KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
MOMENTUM was the word Cork boss John Cleary reached for after the Rebels’ opening McGrath Cup win against Kerry, and 16 days on from that victory, the momentum continues to build ahead of the games that really matter.
Friday night’s McGrath Cup final success against Limerick in Mallow was a mixed bag for Cleary’s charges – but the better team certainly won. It’s now three wins in a row before the league opener against Meath on Sunday week.
‘It was a good pre-season competition, good preparation for the league,’ Cleary said.
‘The most important thing is that we do well in the league but winning games, the confidence, the momentum. It’s been pleasing. This team needed to get a couple of wins under their belt.
‘We closed out of the game reasonably well whereas previously that might not have happened, so that’s pleasing. There was a bit of everything tonight – we played well at times, we left Limerick back into it, so a lot to learn from as well.’
— Kieran McCarthy (@KieranMcC_SS) January 20, 2023
Five years on from their last McGrath Cup success, it’s back in Cork hands, as captain Brian Hurley carried the silverware back to the dressing-room. Fitting, too, as he was one of Cork’s top performers – the Castlehaven man kicked 0-7, including six from play. The Cork full-forward line of Hurley, Chris Óg Jones and Steven Sherlock that scored all 2-10 against Clare the weekend before combined for 0-15 here, with Sherlock nailing seven frees and Jones tapping over a point. That ability to keep the scoreboard moving saw Cork pull away from Limerick – who they meet in Division 2 next month (February 26th, Páirc Uí Chaoimh) – after the Treaty County goaled in each half.
Cork raced out of the blocks and had five points on the board before Limerick got off the mark in the 18th minute with a Cian Sheehan free. By then Sherlock (two frees), Brian O’Driscoll from distance, Chris Óg Jones and Hurley had Cork pulling clear, and good value for the lead.
After Limerick’s opener, Cork’s reply saw the impressive Brian O’Driscoll hit Hurley with a long, probing pass up the right wing, the Castlehaven man called the mark and instantly curled over a terrific score from just inside the 45.
Cork were in control, leading 0-6 to 0-1, but the game changed fast. Limerick were handed a lifeline when wing back Jack Ryan was pushed in the square. Limerick captain Iain Corbett stepped up, his right-footed effort tucked away to Micheál Martin’s right. When Corbett added a brilliant point from distance the gap had whittled down to just one, 0-6 to 1-2, with 26 minutes gone. Sherlock, with his third free of the half, and Cillian Fahy swapped scores, as Cork held a one-point half-time lead, 0-7 to 1-3.
The Cork advantage swelled in the early stages of the second half as Hurley (3) and Sherlock (4f) combined to move the Rebels 0-14 to 1-4 clear. Cork in control again. Back came Limerick with another 1-1 spurt, Davy Lyons finishing from close range. It was 0-14 to 2-5. Cork’s reply was points from sub John O’Rourke, after another inch-perfect Brian O’Driscoll foot pass, and a Colm O’Callaghan point, to move clear again, and end pre-season on a winning note.
Now it’s time for the league, and the games that Cork will really be judged on.
SCORERS - CORK: S Sherlock 0-7 (7f); B Hurley 0-7 (1f); J O’Rourke 0-2; B O'Driscoll, C Óg Jones, C O’Callaghan 0-1 each LIMERICK: I Corbett 1-1 (1-0 pen); C Sheehan 0-4 (4f); D Lyons 1-0; C Fahy, R Bourke 0-1 each.
CORK: M Martin (Nemo Rangers); T Clancy (Clonakilty), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), K O'Donovan (Nemo Rangers); L Fahy (Ballincollig), R Maguire (Castlehaven), M Taylor (Mallow); C O'Callaghan (Eire Óg), K O'Hanlon (Kilshannig); E McSweeney (Knocknagree), S Powter (Douglas), B O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh); C Óg Jones (Iveleary), B Hurley (Castlehaven), S Sherlock (St Finbarr's).
SUBS: C Kiely (Ballincollig) for Fahy (30-ht, temp), S Meehan (Kiskeam) for Clancy (ht), T Walsh (Mallow) for O’Mahony (ht), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers) for McSweeney (52), R Deane (Bantry Blues) for O’Hanlon (62), C Kiely (Ballincollig) for Fahy (68), M Cronin (Nemo Rangers) for Sherlock (70), P Walsh (Kanturk) for S Powter (70), S Merritt (Mallow) for R Maguire (70+3).
LIMERICK: D O’Sullivan; D Connolly, D Lyons, B Coleman; B Fanning, I Corbett, J Ryan; M Donovan, C Fahy; G Brown, C Sheehan, P Maher; A Enright, C Downes, J Naughton.
SUBS: R Bourke for J Ryan (51), K Ryan for D Lyons (68), P Nash for G Brown (68), C Sweeney for B Coleman (70).
REFEREE: B Fleming (Kerry).