Na Piarsaigh take hurling crown with thrilling finish

Crusheen (Clare) 0-9 Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) 1-13, Thurles

Na Piarsaigh produced a storming finish to be crowned AIB Munster Club SHC champions for the first time in their history in Thurles this afternoon.

Substitute Adrian Breen’s 58th-minute goal capped off a stunning performance from the Limerick champions in the latter stages of this feisty final replay.

The Breen brothers, Adrian and David, were instrumental as Na Piarsaigh opened up a match-winning lead after Crusheen, especially in the first half, had looked the likely winners.

The Clare outfit dominated possession in the opening half hour but struck a number of costly wides and only led by 0-5 to 0-4 at the break.

Early yellow cards for Kevin Downes, Brian Hartnett and David Breen immediately put Na Piarsaigh on the back foot.

Downes opened the scoring after seven-and-a-half minutes and found his range again three minutes later, helping his side take a 0-3 to 0-2 lead.

Kevin Ryan struck a terrific third point for Na Piarsaigh after a line ball from Alan Dempsey, while Crusheen’s two openers came from Tony Meaney and Pat Vaughan.

With the lion’s share of possession, the Banner men managed to hit the front thanks to white flags from Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-2) and David Forde.

Cathal King’s 23rd-minute point proved to be the final score of a closely-fought first half, with just the minimum separating the sides at the turnaround.

Crusheen, now with the bit between their teeth, seemed to be on course for victory when Fitzgibbon took his tally to 0-4 and Vaughan sent over two frees.

That was in response to David Breen’s second half opener, but Na Piarsaigh were now in serious trouble at 0-9 to 0-6 down.

Suddenly, Sean Stack’s side started to pick up the pace again and a succession of scores - one from Adrian Breen and two from free-taker Shane Dowling - had them level.

It was now anyone’s game and Na Piarsaigh displayed the greater hunger and will to win at just the right time.

That all-important goal, coupled with well-taken points from the Breens, Hartnett and Kieran Kennedy, saw them reel off a fantastic 1-7 without reply.

Their combined efforts led to scenes of utter jubilation for the players, coaches and supporters of the Caherdavin-based club.

Na Piarsaigh captain Kieran Bermingham, their trusty left corner back, had the honour of receiving the Billy O’Neill Cup to cap off one of the most memorable comebacks in this competition’s long history.

It is also a significant breakthrough for the Treaty county as Na Piarsaigh are the first Limerick club to win the provincial title since Kilmallock did so back in 1994. They will play Ulster champions Loughgiel Shamrocks in their All-Ireland semi-final.

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