Brave Piarsaigh edge through

IT might have been a little too close for comfort at the finish, but nothing could detract from Na Piarsaigh’s achievement in winning through to their first Live95fm Limerick Senior Hurling Championship final at the fourth attempt in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday.

On balance, proving the stronger combination overall – and gaining a massive return from their full-forward trio – they were relieved to hear the final whistle after conceding a goal and a point in injury time.

Failing in previous semi-finals in 1996, 1999 and 2002, the city side owed their success to the scoring return from the full-forward trio of Kevin Downes, David Breen and Kevin Ryan who accounted for all but three points of their total. And, in the face of a very determined challenge from the south Limerick combination of Emmetts (comprising players from six clubs), they needed all their goalscoring expertise to boost them after making a slow start.

While scores were level twice at the start, it was Emmetts who showed the greater attacking flair and impressing in particular with their combination play which was to see them stay in the lead from the 12th to the 29th minute. At a time when Damien Reale was asserting himself at centre-back, his brother Donie was spearheading the attack – drifting between full-forward and the right corner – and inspiring them with a goal ‘made’ by Paul Neenan. That put them in front for the first time and while Na Piarsaigh were encouraged by promising play from David Breen at full-forward and Kevin Ryan in the left corner, progress was slow enough.

Breen, who had made a big impact in his first year on the Limerick team, threatened a lot at full-forward and while he waited until shortly before half-time to get the first of two goals, he came close to getting one in the 18th minute. Then, after getting past full-back Brian Kelliher, he hit a powerful shot narrowly over the bar.

However, shortly after a free from Aidan McAuliffe gave Emmetts their second last score of the half, Na Piarsaigh signalled a recovery with a Kevin Downes goal set up by James O’Brien. That was in the 54th minute and after points from Downes (free) and Ryan brought them level, a Breen goal from a well-worked move gave them back the lead. At the break, it was 2-10 to 1-10.

The second half was almost as close and exciting, even though Na Piarsaigh were to stay in front all the way to the finish. A second goal from Breen, after less than two minutes, brought further joy to manager Tim O’Connor and when Kevin Ryan went through to goal with a kicked shot, they were able to hurl with greater confidence and assurance.

However, in fairness to Emmetts, while they lost ground gradually, they never lost hope and between McAuliffe’s free-taking and the efforts of players like Damien Moloney and Nickey Quaid (son of the late, great Tommy Quaid), they kept in touch on the scoreboard. And when, in injury time a goal from a McAuliffe free brought them to within three points there was the possibility of them saving the game.

Defender Stephen Walsh added a point, but it was too little, too late.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: D. Breen 2-3; K. Downes 1-6 (0-4 frees); K. Ryan 1-4; S. O’Neill 0-2; D. Lynch 0-1.

Emmetts: A. McAuliffe 1-7 (1-6 frees); Donie Reale 1-3; Damien Moloney 0-5; R. McCarthy, B. Moloney, E. O’Leary, N. Quaid and S. Walsh 0-1.

NA PIARSAIGH: P. Kennedy; P. Guinane (capt.), B. Hartnett, K. Berminghan; A. Hennessy, P. McNamara, N. O’Gorman; D. Lynch, P. Gleeson; J. O’Brien, S. O’Neill, F. McNamara; K. Downes, D. Breen. K. Ryan.

Subs: K. Breen for Gleeson (16); R. Sheehan for F. McNamara (23); C. King for Lynch (56); N. Buckley for O’Gorman (60).

EMMETTS: A. Murphy (Hospital Herbertstown); R. Donovan (do., capt.), B. Kelliher (Dromin/Athlacca), S. Walsh (Glenroe); David Moloney (Blackrock), Damien Reale (Hospital/Herbertstown), R. Murphy (Blackrock); N. Quaid (Effin), B. Moloney (Blackrock); P. Neenan (Dromin/Athlacca), R. McCarthy (Blackrock), Damien Moloney (Blackrock); Donie Reale (Hospital/Herbertstown), S. Hourigan (Castletown/Ballyagran), A. McAuliffe (do).

Subs: E. O’Leary (Dromin/Athlacca) for B. Moloney (39); J. Dillon (Effin) for McCarthy (42); E. Walsh (Glenroe) for Donie Reale (48).

Referee: S Hourigan (Rathkeale).

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