THE final scoreline was emphatic enough, but Na Piarsaigh still had to call on all their resources to overcome a resilient Bride Rovers in the first round of the Cork County senior hurling championship at Watergrasshill last evening.
The city team opened in whirlwind fashion with a goal on five minutes from John Gardiner, and after enjoying the bulk of the play in the first 30 minutes they chalked up a deserving interval lead of eight points. However, once the Rathcormac side began to peg them back in the second half, Na Piarsaigh had to up their game considerably in the closing stages in order to make sure of the win.
The key to Piarsaigh’s dominance in the first 30 minutes was some brave defending. Along with Sean Óg Ó hAilpín who was very comfortable at wing back, another major plus was the polished display of Christopher Joyce at centre back. He was excellent in the pivot and constantly brought direction to the Na Piarsaigh play. Consequently, they were quickly off the mark when John Gardiner, who started at full forward (moved to centre forward), bagged a goal almost out of nothing; his perfectly aimed ground shot from right on the end line flew low to the corner of the net.
Bride Rovers hadn’t settled at all and when their main man Barry Johnson knocked over a free on 13 minutes, they already trailed 1-2 to nil. They were poor in discipline too and any careless challenges were penalised by on-form free taker Padraig Gould who was lethal from the dead ball. Bride Rovers’ full forward Sean Ryan made a fantastic catch to fire a point on 20 minutes but his side still remained behind, 1-3 to 0-3. Na Piarsaigh applied further pressure coming up to the break and between frees and play Gould supplied another three points.
With their defence rock-solid they surged further in front when John Gardiner picked up a fine point from on from the sideline and James Egan finished the rout on the half hour to leave his side in a commanding position at the short whistle, 1-8 to 0-3. Meanwhile, Bride Rovers who now face another east Cork side Erins Own in round two, were far from showing any sort of form and half time could not come fast enough as they badly needed to regroup.
That they did surely, coming out of the blocks (and with the aid of a light breeze) at a much faster pace. Johnson landed a free inside the first minute and when Ryan got the better of Darren Mannix, Alan Keating had no hope of diverting the powerful shot from the net. Bride Rovers were now in charge as Na Piarsaigh felt the heat and began to wane. John Gardiner steadied the ship but with Johnson unerring they were not letting the city representatives get too far out of sight.
For a spell it was a nervous three point game and with the setting sun in the eyes of the Na Piarsiagh keeper Keating, he did extremely well to keep his house in order. Bride Rovers were still piling on the pressure in search of the goal that would bring them back in contention. They were behind by four points when the Na Piarsaigh rearguard had to be on their toes and when they diverted out for a 65m, Johnson happily converted to leave the board a very anxious looking 1-8 to 1-11. However, when the need was greatest Gould showed tremendous pace surging forward to shoot a crucial point. Again the gap was closed to three.
And while they left it late Na Piarsaigh did have that bit more in the tank. A Gould free followed closely by an Egan white flag gave them a bit more breathing space, 1-14 to 1-9. Still, Bride Rovers showered long ball into the Na Piarsaigh danger area, but to no avail. The untiring Johnson gave the Rathcormac men one last hope with his point on 60 minutes, but Na Piarsaigh responded with a Gould free. Then a quick puck out from Denis Fitzgerald went astray and when it was sent back over the bar by sub Alan Kenneally, Na Piarsaigh had weathered the storm.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: P Gould 0-11 (0-9 frees), J Gardiner 1-2, J Egan 0-2, A Kenneally 0-1.
Scorers for Bride Rovers: B Johnson 0-9 (0-6 frees, 0-1 65m), S Ryan 1-1.
NA PIARSAIGH: A Keating; A Brady, D Mannix, E Moynihan; R Healy, C Joyce, S Óg Ó hAilpín (Capt); K Buckley, J Egan; S Glasgow, D Gardiner, P Gould; A Dennehy, J Gardiner, S Duggan.
Subs: C O Cearrallain for D Gardiner (45 mins), A Kenneally for S Glasgow (52).
BRIDE ROVERS: D Fitzgerald; A Collins, B Walsh, T Moloney; B O’Driscoll, Barry Murphy, L Forde; J Pratt, Brian Murphy; M Collins, B Johnson, D Burke; C O’Keeffe, S Ryan, J O’Driscoll.
Subs: M Kearney for D Burke (ht), K Collins for J O’Driscoll (43), S Boyce for T Moloney (53 inj), S Kearney for B O’Driscoll (55).
Referee: C Lane (Banteer).
Picture: GOOD TIMING: Na Piarsaigh’s Alan Brady and Robbie Healy combine to block down a goal-bound effort by Bride Rovers forward Jerome O’Driscoll in last night’s Cork SHC game in Watergrasshill, Co. Cork Picture: Des Barry