Allianz HL D1: Cork stage dramatic comeback:

Allianz Hurling League Division One Group A
Cork 2-17 Limerick 0-22

Shane Kingston scored an 80th-minute winner as a strong second-half revival saw Cork take the points in their Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A opener against Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night.

Trailing by eight points at half-time before a crowd of 19,516, the Rebels battled back well in manager Pat Ryan’s first league game in charge and moved in front thanks to goals from Robbie O’Flynn and Declan Dalton. However, the loss of O’Flynn to a suspected ankle injury necessitated 10 minutes of injury time and four points moved Limerick into a 0-22 to 2-14 lead.

Cork continued to push though and Patrick Horgan’s tenth point was followed by Conor Lehane’s first. After a goal half-chance was cleared, Lehane’s sideline cut found Horgan, who provided the pass for sub Kingston to create space and shoot the winner.

Both sides had seven of the same starters as in their last championship outings – Cork’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Galway and Limerick’s final win over Kilkenny – but the Shannonsiders showed no real signs of being unsettled by the various changes in the first half.

Of course, John Kiely’s side were still able to rely on players like Dan Morrissey and Declan Hannon in the half-back line, Darragh O’Donovan at midfield and half-forwards Gearóid Hegarty and Tom Morrisey, making it easy to plug in other options around those pillars.

Limerick led by 0-16 to 0-8 at half-time, but the large-looking margin was mainly the result of a six-point surge between the 31st minute and the whistle. Up to then, Cork had competed well but throughout the first half there was a leakiness in terms of shooting – five wides by the 11th minute and nine in the opening period as a whole as well as four attempts left short.

Goal opportunities were at a premium for the Rebels in that first half, with the only real half-chance coming in the 14th minute as Conor Lehane’s pass allowed Robbie O’Flynn to use his pace well but his low shot was from a tight angle and it travelled across the face of goal and wide without ever really looking like it would trouble goalkeeper David McCarthy.

Last year, Limerick trained hard during the league, giving the false impression that they might be faltering – this time, they look to have more done than at the same stage in 2022 and that was displayed with some excellent team moves leading to scores.

In the 21st minute, the tireless Hegarty was back near his own goal, helping to prevent a Cork attacking developing into something dangerous; six passes later, he was slotting over his third point for a 0-10 to 0-5 advantage.

Cork’s response to that was good, with Patrick Horgan landing two (one free) and his Glen Rovers clubmate, full-back Eoin Downey, capping a good league debut with a fine effort.

That left them just two behind at the half-hour mark, but – after Cork captain Seán O’Donoghue was forced off injured – Limerick turned on the turbo and Barry Murphy, Colin Coughlan and Séamus Flanagan were among the scorers as they eased into that eight-point half-time advantage.

In the space of 11 minutes, it has been wiped out, with Brian Roche among those impressing for Cork. After a Horgan free, for which he had been fouled, Ciarán Joyce’s ball found Declan Dalton and his pass allowed Robbie O’Flynn to fire home a great shot.

While David Reidy had his sixth for Limerick in reply, O’Flynn set up Horgan for two more Cork points and then the Erin’s Own man was also the provider for the equalising goal. Though his low ball across looked to have evaded everybody, Dalton showed good desire to reach the sliothar and send a ground shot to the net.

Adam English did put Limerick back in front, but Cork’s play was more cohesive than in the first half and they retained the momentum. Horgan tied the game again with his eighth, his fourth from play, and the noise levels rose as Joyce landed a big one from distance to put the home side in front for the first time.

Another from Horgan left it 2-14 to 0-18 before another Reidy free and a long hold-up due to a nasty injury to the influential O’Flynn. When the action resumed, Limerick sub Ciarán Barry levelled as the game moved into extended injury time and Oisín O’Reilly and Reidy gave them a cushion.

Cork had a late push in them, though.

Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-10 (0-5 frees, 0-1 65), Robbie O’Flynn 1-1, Declan Dalton 1-0, Eoin Downey, Ciarán Joyce, Luke Meade, Brian Roche, Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: David Reidy 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 65), Gearóid Hegarty 0-3, Adam English, Colin Coughlan 0-2 each, Séamus Flanagan, Tom Morrissey, Declan Hannon, Barry Murphy, Darragh O’Donovan, Ciarán Barry, Donnacha Ó Dálaigh 0-1 each.

Cork: Patrick Collins; Seán O’Donoghue, Eoin Downey, Conor O’Callaghan; Tommy O’Connell, Ciarán Joyce, Damien Cahalane; Brian O’Sullivan, Luke Meade; Brian Roche, Conor Lehane, Cormac Beausang; Declan Dalton, Patrick Horgan, Robbie O’Flynn.

Subs: Niall O’Leary for O’Donoghue (30, injured), Shane Kingston for Beausang (40), Shane Barrett for O’Sullivan (43), Brian Hayes for Dalton (55), Conor Cahalane for O’Flynn (63, injured).

Limerick: David McCarthy; Seán Finn, Richie English, Aaron Costelloe; Dan Morrissey, Declan Hannon, Colin Coughlan; Darragh O’Donovan, Barry Murphy; Gearóid Hegarty, David Reidy, Tom Morrissey; Adam English, Séamus Flanagan, Oisín O’Reilly.

Subs: Fergal O’Connor for Costelloe (4-6, temp), Graeme Mulcahy for Reidy (48-49, blood), Ciarán Barry for Hannon (49, injured), Shane O’Brien for O’Reilly (50), Mulcahy for English (55), Cian Lynch for Hegarty (58).

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).