Operating at centre-back, Seán Óg succeeded in completely blotting out the threat of his former inter-county colleague Jerry O’Connor and in the process signalled he still has plenty to offer the county team.
Indeed it was the Piarsaigh defence, which took most of the plaudits for this victory. To a man they contained the Newtown danger men, while enjoying their fair share of good fortune, something that was not lost on selector Bill Kelleher.
“Of course we were let off the hook on occasions, but look, if a team is to win a county, it must have it’s share of luck, and we certainly have more than our share out there tonight,” said Kelleher.
“It was another gutsy display by the lads, and we couldn’t have asked for more. Losing Pádraig Gould with a hamstring injury in the first half was a massive blow as he is one of our best scoring forwards, but we stayed focused, make a couple of substitutions which worked and I don’t think there was any question but we were the better team over the hour.”
In a game that lacked any real sparkle, two evenly matched sides were level seven times. The dominance of both defences — Pat Mulcahy was a commanding figure for Newtown at full back — meant scores were scarce and in an uneventful first half, the only real action of note was around the Piarsaigh goal.
Jamie Coughlan missed a sitter of a goal in the 15th minute when the sliotar broke inside the defence to him, but his first-time strike came back off the crossbar and later only a superb save by keeper Alan Keating denied Ryan Clifford a goal.
Piarsaigh appeared to have used up all their luck after they lost Padraig Gould — who was proving more than a handful for the Newtown defence — to a hamstring injury, and their 0-6 to 0-5 half time lead didn’t look to be sufficient, as they turned to play into the wind.
The introduction if Liam McDonnell for the luckless Gould had the desired effect a minutes after the restart when he finished John Gardiner’s long-range free to the net and when Shane Duggan added a point to give his side a four-point advantage, Parsing looked to be on their way.
Credit to Newtown, they threw caution to the wind and laid siege to the Piarsaigh defence and it took some great defending by Ó hAilpín, Christopher Joyce and Ronan McGregor to keep them at bay.
The pressure was relentless and it finally paid off when Kevin O’Connor beat a couple of defenders to score a goal and as the tension mounted, the sides swapped points to be tied for the seventh time at the three-quarter stage.
However the city side had learned well from the drawn game and with John Gardiner, Ronan McGregor and Keith Buckley hurling with great confidence, they hit over four points in a row to be in front at the final whistle by the same margin and on the evidence of this display, will face Ballymartle in next week’s quarter final in confidence mood.
Newtown coach Bernie O’Connor signified at the final whistle that it would be his last season in charge. “I will retire gracefully now,” he said.
“I cannot make any excuses. We simply weren’t good enough on the night. We missed three sitters of goals and you cannot expect to win games doing that.”
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: J Gardiner 0-4fs, L McDonnell 1-1, K Buckley 0-3, P Gould, S Duggan 0-2 each, P O’Rourke, S Glasgow, R McGregor 0-1 each
Scorers for Newtownshandrum: R Clifford 0-6 (5fs), K O’Connor 1-0, J Coughlan, M Bowles 0-2 each; B O’Connor 0-1f.
NA PIARSAIGH: A Keating; D Mannix, A Dennehy, E Moynihan; S Óg Ó hAilpín, C Joyce, R McGregor; A Brady, G Gardiner; K Buckley, S Glasgow, A Dennehy; P Gould, P O’Rourke, A Dennehy.
Subs: L McDonnell for Gould (25), C Buckley for A Dennehy (35), A Hogan for K Buckley (55).
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: W Biggane; J O’Mahony, P Mulcahy, R Fallon; E O’Connor, B O’Connor, M Ryan; K O’Connor, PJ Copps; M Bowles, J O’Connor, C Naughton; R Clifford, J Coughlan, D Stack
Subs: J Herlihy for E O’Connor (35), JP King for Naughton (45).
Referee: C Lane (Banteer).