You are viewing the content for Monday 7 October 2013

Na Piarsaigh young guns dig it out and come of age

Piarsaigh 0-14 Adare 0-12
In 2009 these teams met in the Limerick SHC final, precocious Na Piarsaigh seeking their first title and battle-hardened Adare going for three-in-a-row, their fifth title in nine years.

It was an annihilation, Na Piarsaigh blitzed 1-17 to 0-3. Their manager, Seán Stack, admitted they were caught "like startled rabbits" in the headlights of the Adare juggernaut.

Four years on, another Limerick senior hurling final. Adare as grizzled as ever but a very different Na Piarsaigh side and a very different result. Still many of the same personnel – on both sides – but now, says Seán, his youngsters are all grown up.

"I had nothing to do with it," he said. "It’s just that these players have matured over the last four years. When you’re getting to the final stages consistently – final in 2009, semi-final in 2010, won it in 2011, semi-final again in 2012 and now the final again — that’s the only way players will realise what it takes, to be composed, be aware of your surroundings, do your job for 60 minutes."

They did their job yesterday, Na Piarsaigh, and did it in less than favourable conditions, digging out a win on a dirty day against a dogged determined Adare side, their young twin strike-force of Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling to the fore with four points apiece.

"This was a battle and from a hurling point of view, from a coaching point of view particularly. It’s more pleasing to win a battle, especially against a seasoned side like Adare, than to win a classic," said Seán Stack.

"This team can play nice hurling. The age profile is frightening, 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds out there. One of the 17-year-olds, Michael Casey [outstanding corner-back], was definitely man of the match for me but I’d like to see those guys out on a day when there isn’t this heavy clingy auld mist around."

The mist and rain were there long before throw-in and had already spoiled the warm-up contest where Patrickswell were winners over Granagh-Ballingarry in the County Cup final. The players struggled to hold onto their hurleys and were slipping and sliding on the greasy pitch.

Nevertheless it was Na Piarsaigh making light of the conditions in the opening quarter, steaming ahead five points to one by the 12th minute, Dowling and Downes with a brace apiece, midfielder Alan Dempsey with the fifth, against Declan Hannon’s pointed free. A well-taken point by veteran Conor Fitzgerald got Adare on track, however, and this was followed by three more (Hannon with two, Diarmuid Sexton with a beauty after a long cross-field pass by Willie Griffin), tying the game in the 21st minute at 0-5 apiece.

Given they were playing with the aid of the breeze, given also that Dowling had managed to save a mishit Hannon penalty (hurley twisted in his hands) between all those points, it wasn’t looking good for Na Piarsaigh.

Three unanswered points though before the break put a better gloss on the scoreboard, 0-8 to 0-5, as they headed for the shelter of the dressing-rooms.

The first ten minutes of the second half were dominated by Adare, six shots on goal, three on target (midfielder John Fitzgibbon with two fine strikes), game tied at 0-8 each. With Na Piarsaigh yet to even have a shot at the posts it was all set fair for Adare to drive on and take the spoils.

This though was when Na Piarsaigh showed their mettle, the hard-earned experience referred to by Seán Stack. First, a Dowling pointed free to steady the ship, then another powerful burst from Downes (great tussle with Wayne McNamara), his fourth point from play, and they were back on course.

Adare would continue to make a game of it, their never-say-die attitude epitomised by outstanding corner-back Stephen Lavin, but they were simply raging against the dying of the light.

"Fair play to Na Piarsaigh I thought they deserved it," said a sporting Stephen. "They were the better team. We couldn’t win enough ball, they were that bit more physical, won the breaks that mattered. We conceded too many frees, too over-eager in the tackle maybe, trying too hard but you can’t fault our lads for the effort and the fight we put up."

Hard to take then, second final in-a-row lost?

"It is but you’d rather be here than not, it shows that at least you’re close. It’s a long year when you’re knocked out early!"

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: K Downes, S Dowling (4fs) (0-4 each), A Breen, A Dempsey (0-2 each), D Dempsey, D Sheppard (0-1 each).

Scorers for Adare: D Hannon (0-7, 6fs), J Fitzgibbon, D Sexton (0-2 each), C Fitzgerald (0-1).

NA PIARSAIGH: P Kennedy; N Buckley, K Breen, M Casey; C King, D Breen, J O’Brien (c); S Dowling, W O’Donoghue; K Kennedy, A Breen, D Dempsey; K Ryan, K Downes, P Gleeson.

Subs: D Sheppard for Kennedy (48); P Gleeson for O’Donoghue (57).

ADARE: S O’Donoghue; D Dillon, JP Healy, S Lavin; R Kennedy, W McNamara, M Clifford; J Hannon, J Fitzgibbon; C Fitzgerald, P Keane, D Sexton; W Griffin, D Hannon, M Lyons.

Referee: J Murphy (Ballylanders/Glenroe).