Agony for Limerick as Cork take title
Shannonsiders' wait goes on as Leesiders fight back to retain Munster crown
STRAIGHT up stuff from John Galvin. The Limerick midfielder is waiting patiently while Cork's man of the match Daniel Goulding receives his award from Munster Council Chairman Jimmy O'Gorman.
Galvin casts an envious glance in Goulding's direction, insistent that it should have been a man in green clasping the glass ball on offer.
Galvin would rather be anywhere else right now but while he waits patiently to fulfil a TV obligation, he feeds the waiting dictaphones with a forthright assessment of Limerick's latest failed attempt to land a first Munster SFC crown since 1896.
One hundred and 13 years, as if Galvin needs reminding. That historical fact doesn't register with the Croom giant.
"All I know is that I'm playing for 11 years and haven't won one.
"In 2004, we should have beaten Kerry and in 2009, I'll look back and think that we should have taken Cork when we had our chances."
Limerick lost to Kerry in 2003 and 2004, the latter after a replay, but this feels like the one that really got away against a Cork team which registered just 1-5 from play.
"It's sickening every time," Galvin groans.
"I've had enough of it. We've been a nearly team for years. The problem with nearly teams is if they don't make it, they die a year or two later. Look at Fermanagh, Wexford -- you need to win something to keep up the spirit.
"I hope we can regroup on Tuesday or Wednesday. It would be terrible to leave the season at that and not put in a good performance."
Limerick will try to pick up the pieces in the fourth round of qualifiers on July 28 while Cork prepare for an All-Ireland quarter-final over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
The Rebels collected a 36th provincial senior crown at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday with just a single point to spare in front of 20,676 spectators.
There were several below-par performances from Cork players but deep down, manager Conor Counihan will be pleased that his side received a huge test ahead of the All-Ireland series.
Cork's win ensured they claimed back-to-back Munster SFC titles for the first time since 1995 but the one they really want is possibly just three games away.
Many observers believe that Cork are best equipped to smash Tyrone and Kerry's recent duopoly of the Sam Maguire Cup, and Limerick manager Mickey Ned O'Sullivan expects them to feature heavily in the final shake-up.
The Kerry native explained: "You see, Cork couldn't have kept the pace that they had against Kerry and produce it next September. They had to drop the tempo.
"We knew that and knew that if we came all guns blazing, we would put them on the rack. Cork will come, they're a serious outfit and will be there or thereabouts."
Leaving the defeat to one side, O'Sullivan's biggest regret was the controversial awarding of Cork's 14th-minute penalty, a touch and go decision following Mark O'Riordan's tangle with Goulding.
Donncha O'Connor slotted home at the City End and Cork were on terms at 1-1 to 0-4, having been completely outplayed in the early stages.
All of Limerick's scores were collected from play and in the first half, Seánie Buckley and Ian Ryan combined for seven as Limerick went on to lead by 0-8 to 1-2 at the break.
In keeping with the theme of the afternoon, it could have been so much better for Limerick but Stephen Lavin shot a foot wide after yet another lightning break from the half-back line.
Cork's final score of the opening half was Daniel Goulding's 18th-minute point but incredibly, 37 minutes of playing time elapsed from that moment until the lively Goulding forced a tip-over save from Seán Kiely.
In the meantime, Limerick failed to capitalise as an exciting tussle hurtled towards an almost inevitable conclusion.
Fittingly, it was Goulding who blasted home Cork's second goal in the 53rd minute to tie the game at 2-3 to 0-9.
The sides were level again before sub Colm O'Neill and Donncha O'Connor put two between them, with Stephen Kelly's late response mere consolation for the Shannonsiders.
Limerick were shocked by two late Cork goals in last year's Munster semi-final but this time, O'Sullivan had no complaints.
Contradicting Galvin's assessment, O'Sullivan said: "There's no such thing as a nearly team. Cork were the better team -- they won the game. But I thought the lads played exceptionally well. The management is proud of them and they're proud of themselves."
Relieved Cork manager Conor Counihan was forced into late defensive changes when Anthony Lynch and John Miskella cried off and he admitted: "We were extremely lucky.
"This team unfortunately has a habit of not doing things easy and today was one of those days. Having said that, Limerick have a habit of not making this easy as well.
"We'll have a lot of fellas there who will be disappointed with their performances.
"That's probably a positive thing because a lot of these lads have character. I know they'll fight back and deliver again."