Blooding three talented youngsters in Colin Lynch, James Murray and Pádraig Gould, Na Piarsaigh always looked the tastier outfit against St. Catherine’s in a game the sides amassed 31 wides between them — 17 to the winners. In the end the class of John Gardiner, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín — in the midfield berth — David Gardiner and Gould proved vital, for St Catherine’s were always struggling to cope.
Piarsaigh coach Joe O’Leary was understandably happy. “I’m glad this one is over. Since the relegation issue entered the equation it makes it a different championship. I was pleased with our performance, we were solid enough and the three young lads acquitted themselves well. We’ll get down to some hard work now, we aim to improve.” A poor opening half, but it was Na Piarsaigh who made the better start with Gould finding his feet quickly by pointing twice inside the opening four minutes. Shane Cotter, unusually off form with his free-taking, did reduce the gap, but it was city side who were playing better controlled hurling.
Tight in defence, with corner-backs Darren Mannix and Donal Murphy in top gear and Gardiner sublime at centre-back, points followed from the excellent David Gardiner and Colin O’Sullivan as St Catherine’s suffered a huge blow with the loss of Kieran Morrison through injury. Leading 0-4 to 0-1 after the opening quarter, Na Piarsaigh were in control, but some very wayward shooting by St. Catherine’s certainly aided their cause. Cotter missed two easy 21chances as their first-half wides tally mounted to 11 and, in between, David Gardiner showed his class with two more points to give Na Piarsaigh a flattering 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead.
In four second-half minutes following the resumption, Na Piarsaigh secured their passage to the next round as first Gould and then Sean Óg Ó hAilpín with a peach of a sideline cut stretched their lead. And then the killer blow in the 33th minute when Ó hAilpín set up David Gardiner for a fine goal and St Catherine’s were a beaten side.
In fairness to the Ballynoe men, the likes of Mike Fitzgerald, Cal Ahern and Richard O’Connell never gave up the chase. But with Gould in fine form up front Na Piarsaigh led 1-9 to 0-3 entering the final quarter and comfortable.
Mike Fitzgerald and Ahern did have late points for St Catherine’s, but they were always chasing the game and face a tough assignment now against the losers of the Sars-Blackrock contest to stay in the championship.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: D. Gardiner 1-3, P. Gould 0-5 (0-2 frees), C. O’Sullivan, S Óg Ó hAilpín (sideline), C. Lynch (free) 0-1 each.
St. Catherine’s: S. Cotter 0-2 (frees), S. Kearney, M. Fitzgerald, C. Ahern 0- each.
NA PIARSAIGH: M. O’Sullivan; D. Mannix, R. O’Byrne, D. murphy; M. Prendergast, J. Gardiner, R. Healy; S Óg Ó hAilpín, R. McGregor; D. Gardiner, C. O’Sullivan, J. Murray; P. Gould, C. Lynch, S. P. O’Sullivan.
ST. CATERINE’S:I. O’Connell; S. Fitzgerald, E. Kenneally, A. Hogan; P. Cotter, M. Fitzgerald, P. O’Neill; C. Ahern, D. Farrell; P. O’Connell, R. O’Connell, S. Kearney; N. O’Brien, C. Morrison, S. Cotter.
Subs: S. Barry for Morrison (9 mins), J.Jnr Sheehan for P. O’Connell (36m), M. Hegarty for O’Brien (44m).
Referee: D. Farrell (Mitchelstown).