DONAL O'GRADY: Bridge could not answer the goal blitz

Timing is everything

The old adage that goals win matches rang true in Ennis yesterday. Na Piarsaigh scored four while Sixmilebridge failed to raise a green flag. It wasn’t just the goals, either, but the timing of the goals that made all the difference. A peach of a through ball from Shane Dowling picked out Kevin Downes and he finished expertly past a stranded Derek Fahy in the first minute.

This opened the Limerick club’s account and set them on their way. It gave them a grip on the game in the first half that kept them at arm’s length from the Clare champions.

Leading by six points at the break, they got another goal just after half-time. Corner-forward Kevin Ryan got his hurley to a Shane Dowling point effort which dipped into the square, providing goal number two for the Limerick champions.

This knocked the stuffing out of the Bridge. If the first goal gave Na Piarsaigh a grip on the game, this second goal squeezed the life out of the Clare men and a third, from Adrian Breen, in the 43rd minute, put the icing on the cake.

Sixmilebridge just didn’t have the wherewithal to mount a comeback and David Shepherd’s final goal, at the end of the game, underlined their total superiority on the day.

Wing wonders

Sixmilebridge had played eight games in nine weeks and headline writers might have used the film title A Bridge Too Far to describe this one. They looked tired from the off, whereas Na Piarsaigh were full of running, energy and enthusiasm. They were far sharper and their touch looked in, whereas the Bridge struggled to impose themselves at any time on the game.

The Clare men played seven defenders with Paudie Fitzpatrick, named at full-back, coming to centre-back to mark Na Piarsaigh danger man Kevin Downes. Fitzpatrick had operated in a similar role against Midleton, doing a man-marking job on the dangerous Conor Lehane.

The Bridge centre-back, Caimin Morey, operated directly behind Fitzpatrick as a sweeper. Clever play from Na Piarsaigh rendered these tactics redundant, however. Little or no ball was struck up the middle to Downes. Na Piarsaigh worked the ball from defence to their wing-backs and midfielders, who transferred it swiftly to the corners.

Shane Dowling benefited from this tactic, knocking over a point and making the first two goals. Kevin Ryan, in a roving role, scored 1-3 and Adrian Breen in the left corner notched 1-2.

This inside line looked hungry for the ball and constantly got onto good deliveries in front of their markers. The Bridge defence looked heavy-legged compared to their last outing and obviously their arduous campaign caught up with them in the end.

King in regal form

We often read that defences win championships. Na Piarsaigh’s defence were on top throughout this contest. They held the Bridge attack to two points from play in the first half, only conceding five points in all. They only conceded a further three points in the second half.

Usual full-back Kieran Breen operated in the right corner and was steady and forceful throughout the game. Minor Michael Casey showed the instincts of a good corner-back by being in the right place at the right time when the game was a contest in the first half.

Na Piarsaigh manager Sean Stack will be pleased with himself as the placing of Cathal King at full-back to police Bridge danger-man Niall Gilligan proved a masterstroke. King dominated this position from start to finish; the Bridge persisted with the tactic of playing ball into the right-corner-forward position in the first half, and Na Piarsaigh kept an extra defender in that area. With David Breen sweeping intelligently from centre-back, the Clare outfit failed to make any progress.

Padraic Kennedy in the Na Piarsaigh goal had an easy afternoon and apart from a save from a 20-metre Gilligan free in the second half, he had little to do.

Na Piarsaigh moved the ball cleverly throughout the field while the Bridge were unable to match their enthusiasm and energy; the Limerick city outfit wrapped up the game comfortably in the end.


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