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Na Piarsaigh always in the driving seat

Na Piarsaigh 3-16 Ahane 0-07
A repeat of the 2011 final in this Limerick SHC quarter-final at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, a repeat also of the result, but, unfortunately, not a repeat of the game, nor even close.

Na Piarsaigh were again winners on that occasion, 2-18 to 0-13, won their first senior county title in the process but were made to work all the way for it, a late Shane Dowling penalty goal finally slamming the door on Ahane.

No such heroics needed in this latest episode, the city side in the driving-seat almost from first whistle to last.

Ahane topped their group coming into this quarter-final, three wins from three against Croom, Garryspillane and South Liberties. It was a false gloss, however, because quite simply they weren’t in the same class as the smooth-running Na Piarsaigh. Oh they tried, none more so than midfielder and Limerick county panellist Niall Moran, though he did allow his frustration get the better of him at times. But by half-time the writing was already on the wall.

Playing into the wind corner-forward Adrian Breen soon had Na Piarsaigh’s first score, a point within the first minute. This was negated in the sixth minute by a fine long-range strike from Moran but Niall’s fellow Limerick senior county stars Kevin Downes and the aforementioned Dowling almost immediately had Na Piarsaigh ahead again, a point apiece. Then the first major body-blow for Ahane.

Kevin Downes had been named at wing-forward but actually started in the corner – that’s his spot, as close to goals as possible. His instinct is always for the green flag and in the 13th minute, winning possession around the 20m line, he powered his way past several defenders then blasted past Jonathan Hayes in the Ahane goals. An Alan Dempsey point followed and already it was becoming obvious — this was going to be Na Piarsaigh’s day.

Ahane dogged their way back, managing three points before the break to two for Na Piarsaigh but at five points behind (1-6 to 0-4), turning to face into that wind — it wasn’t looking good for them.

So it turned out. They did manage the first score of the second-half, a pointed 65 by wing-forward Riche Ryan, the same player pointing a free minutes later to cancel out a similar score from the excellent Dowling. That would be that though as far as Ahane were concerned and from there to the finish, and much like the quarter-final that had preceded this game (Adare powering past Ballybrown), the final 25 minutes were all Na Piarsaigh.

Two more goals they scored, Downes with another blaster on 42 minutes, Adrian Breen icing the cake in the 60th minute, and between times they would add nine points, four subs (Kevin Ryan, Willie O’Donoghue, David Sheppard and Brian Hartnett) all getting on the scoresheet, Dowling contributing a few sublime long-range efforts.

It was all too much for Ahane, simply blown away. Na Piarsaigh’s reward? A semi-final date with the side who took their crown last year, reigning champions Kilmallock. Could hardly be tastier!

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: S Dowling (0-7, three frees, one 65); K Downes (2-1); A Breen (1-1); K Kennedy, A Dempsey, C King, K Ryan, W O’Donoghue, D Sheppard, B Hartnett (0-1 each).

Scorers for Ahane: R Ryan (0-3, two frees, one 65); N Moran (0-2, one s/l); P O’Halloran, O Moran (0-1 each).

NA PIARSAIGH: P Kennedy; N Buckley, K Breen, K Bermingham; C King, D Breen, J O’Brien (c); A Dempsey, P Gleeson; K Kennedy, S Dowling, J Madden; K Downes, D Quigley, A Breen.

Subs: K Ryan for Madden (inj. 22); W O’Donoghue for Dempsey (inj. 30); D Sheppard for Quigley (30); B Hartnett for Gleeson (47); M Casey for Bermingham (50).

Blood subs: K Ryan for Quigley (10/13); B Hartnett for D Breen (27/29).

AHANE: J Hayes; P Treacy, C O’Reilly, S Harnett; M Carr, D Morrissey, C Ryan; N Moran, M Foley; R Ryan, F Ahern (c), D Laing; P O’Halloran, J Meskell, T Morrissey.

Subs: P Meskell for Foley (46); O Moran for J Meskell (46); J Enright for Treacy (53); P Morrissey for O’Halloran (58); K Enright for Ryan (58).

Referee: J Mullins (St Kieran’s, Ardagh).