PHOTOGRAPHS Courtesy  GEORGE HATCHELL (Copyright applies)


Munster Senior Hurling Championship

Cork 3-28 Limerick 3-26

By Stephen Barry at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh

There was no stopping the Cork public celebrating their heroes as they somehow kept their championship dreams alive.

The Rebels looked down and out with four minutes to play as they fell four behind a charging Limerick, inspired by 3-3 from Séamus Flanagan.

In such a desperate situation, they found the energy and courage deep down to outscore the All-Ireland champions by 1-4 to 0-1 from there.

It came down to a game-defining black-card penalty decision by Seán Stack in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time. Shane Kingston was hauled down by Kyle Hayes down the left.

Patrick Horgan was the man you’d want stepping up. Having scored 2-10 against Clare, he took his tally to 1-11 with a bullet to the top corner.

Pat Ryan told Horgan to send his final free down the sideline to drain time. The plan worked to perfection as Brian Hayes won the ball and sent it between the posts.

It left the red majority among the sold-out 41,670 crowd celebrating to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’ hit at the final whistle.

The margins have been gut-wrenchingly tight throughout Ryan’s tenure. One win, one draw, and four one-score defeats. This time they came out on the right side of a thriller.

The losses of Ciarán Joyce and Peter Casey on either side were keenly felt, even if both managers could call on All-Star replacements in Mark Coleman and the red-hot Flanagan.

Aaron Gillane and Horgan slotted early frees, with a huge cheer from the Cork crowd as their midfielders forced Cian Lynch to overcarry. Another defensive win followed when Seán O’Donoghue beat Gillane out to the first ball inside.

Darragh Fitzgibbon and Gearóid Hegarty traded points before Cork found an early breakthrough.

Patrick Collins’ puck-out was carried by the wind deep into opposition territory where Brian Hayes brilliantly broke the sliotar straight to Shane Barrett. The Blarney man had Seámus Harnedy overlapping and he rifled to the roof of the net.

Those long puck-outs earned plenty of dividends in the first half, with 2-5 coming from Collins’ restarts. Harnedy was able to drift in behind the half-back line to receive the ball and he picked off a simple score.

That triggered a five-point streak, with Horgan, Barrett, Fitzgibbon, and a long-range Declan Dalton free all splitting the posts. 1-8 to 0-3. It could’ve been more but Alan Connolly had a goal chance blocked by Seán Finn.

The Limerick defence was stretched again when Hayes came barrelling through in the 14th minute. Barry Nash pulled off a full-stretch hook before Nickie Quaid diverted the second attempt over with superb reflexes.

David Reidy landed a score in response. Flanagan and full-back Eoin Downey were both booked, as were Pat Ryan and Paul Kinnerk.

Downey was called ashore for Damien Cahalane after 23 minutes.

Tom Morrissey punished a giveaway point and Flanagan added another form the most acute of angles. Another cheap turnover handed Limerick a goal.

O’Donoghue gave the sliotar to Gillane after a short puck-out and he found Flanagan after a mazy run. The full-forward buried the ball low past Collins. 1-11 to 1-8.

Cork’s response showed they wouldn’t be easily deterred. Harnedy caught Collins’ puck-out clean and he slipped Barrett into space to hammer past Quaid.

Hayes teed up Barrett for a fifth goal chance of the half, but Quaid produced a diving save.

The Blarney bullet almost got in again, but he was hauled down by Finn, who limped off injured after that tackle. Fergal O’Connor entered for his championship debut as Horgan slotted a pair of frees. The gap was eight, 2-15 to 1-10, at half-time.

Pat Ryan left the last word to his players in the dressing room as he took his place in a guard of honour to cheer his team back onto the field.

Limerick are well known for their fast starts, though, and they slotted the first three points. Lynch, Byrnes, and Cathal O’Neill, who all blanked in the first half, quickly got off the mark as they raised their performance.

Fitzgibbon went forward for a point and two Horgan frees kept them two scores ahead. When Connolly scored, all six forwards and two midfielders had hit the target.

Adam English landed a monster point with his first touch. Another short puck-out would cost Cork dearly.

O’Donoghue tried to dummy past Hegarty but the Limerick man turned over the sliotar and fed Flanagan to apply a lethal finish. 2-20 to 2-18 after 52 minutes.

Hegarty added a brace before creating the lead goal. English broke Quaid’s puck-out to the St Patrick’s star and he found Flanagan to bounce home his hat-trick.

They forged three clear with O’Neill’s third and a point from Kyle Hayes. When Hegarty landed his fourth, it looked over. It was anything but as Shane Kingston, Connolly, and Horgan arrowed over points to set up a grandstand finish.

Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 1-11 (1-0 pen, 10fs), Shane Barrett, Séamus Harnedy 1-2 each, Darragh Fitzgibbon 0-5, Declan Dalton (2fs), Alan Connolly, Brian Hayes 0-2 each, Ethan Twomey, Shane Kingston 0-1 each.

Scorers for Limerick: Séamus Flanagan 3-3, Aaron Gillane 0-7 (7fs), Gearóid Hegarty 0-4, Cathal O’Neill 0-3, Diarmaid Byrnes (2fs), Tom Morrissey 0-2 each, Kyle Hayes, Cian Lynch, David Reidy, Adam English, Aidan O’Connor 0-1 each.

Cork: Patrick Collins; Niall O’Leary, Eoin Downey, Seán O’Donoghue; Tim O’Mahony, Robert Downey, Mark Coleman; Ethan Twomey, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Declan Dalton, Shane Barrett, Séamus Harnedy; Patrick Horgan, Alan Connolly, Brian Hayes.

Subs: Damien Cahalane for E Downey (23), Brian Roche for Twomey (57), Ger Millerick for Coleman (61), Shane Kingston for Dalton (62), Tommy O’Connell for R Downey (66).

Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Seán Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes; William O’Donoghue, Cathal O’Neill; Gearóid Hegarty, Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Séamus Flanagan, David Reidy.

Subs: Fergal O’Connor for Finn (35+3, inj), Adam English for Reidy (49), Conor Boylan for T Morrissey (61), Aidan O’Connor for Hannon (68), Fergal O’Connor for Gillane (70).

Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin).