Na Piarsaigh scored a crucial four-point win over Killeagh in the Cork SHC at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday, setting up a fourth round meeting with Bride Rovers following this epic do-or-die third round battle.
For long periods in the second half the northsiders looked to be exiting the championship but seven unanswered points in the closing 10 minutes proved crucial.
Relief was the primary emotion of coach Sean Guiheen. “For the future of the club and the future of the young fellas, we just couldn’t go down the road of relegation,” he said.
“We had a meeting last Monday night after the Youghal game (second round) to clear the air. And thankfully we did, and the manner in which we won is very pleasing.
“We played Killeagh already twice this year and they beat us both times. We knew coming down here we were going to have to play. And as soon as we got fast quality ball into our forward line we got the scores. The boys in there are young and very talented and very skilful.”
This will be a difficult one for Killeagh to stomach, as they dominated for long periods. Having played against the wind in the opening 30 minutes they led by a point, and with 50 minutes gone they were in front by a goal but they fell away and failed to score again.
Na Piarsaigh utilised the wind to open up a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage, Keith Buckley was responsible for four points. However, Killeagh were right back in contention when Gary Leahy broke through to shoot a wonderful goal after 14 minutes. The sides were level three more times and with the Killeagh defence in excellent form, they went ahead through well-taken points from Leahy and the superb Andrew Walsh.
At the break, they led 1-8 to 0-10 and turning to play with the elements were in a favourable position.
This prompted change from Na Piarsaigh with Anthony Dennehy and Alan Kenneally coming in to join Dayne Lee who was introduced earlier in the half. However, it was Killeagh who continued to enjoy good fortune. Joe Deane pointed from play and a free, as their whole forward unit looked sharp. Approaching the end of the third quarter they enjoyed a 1-13 to 0-13 lead.
By contrast, there wasn’t a whole lot of quality ball going into the Na Piarsaigh attack. Still, what possession they did get, they converted. Keith Buckley bagged three vital points and when Christopher Joyce set up Kenneally for a point, the margin was reduced to the minimum. Patrick O’Rourke then drove a long ball forward and when Shane Duggan got a flick to it, referee Diarmuid Kirwan consulted with his umpires to confirm it was a goal – and the lead for Na Piarsaigh 1-15 to 1-13.
Killeagh’s response was impressive with Walsh goaling from the puck-out. They launched over another two points to remain in the driving seat. Na Piarsaigh never panicked though. Lee, Padraig Gould, Cian Buckley and Keith Buckley struck four quick-fire points to regain the lead, 1-19 to 2-15. Well into their stride now, they closed out with another trio of points, Gould (2) and Lee.
Killeagh now meet Courcey Rovers in the relegation final.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: K Buckley (0-10, six frees), P Gould (0-4), S Duggan (1-0), D Lee (0-3), S Curtin, E Moynihan, A Kenneally, C Joyce and C Buckley (0-1 each).
Scorers for Killeagh: A Walsh (1-4), J Deane (0-7, three frees, one 65), G Leahy (1-1), J Budds, M Murphy and D Walsh (0-1 each).
NA PIARSAIGH: D O’Connell; A Brady, D Mannix, Adam Dennehy; C Joyce, J Gardiner (Capt), S Óg Ó hAilpín; E Moynihan, C Buckley; P Gould, S O’Sullivan, P O’Rourke; C O’Mahony, S Curtin, K Buckley.
Subs: D Lee for C O’Mahony (12), Anthony Dennehy for E Moynihan, A Kenneally for S O’Sullivan (both half-time), S Duggan for S Curtin (39).
KILLEAGH: B Rochford; A Keniry, P O’Brien (Capt), C Fogarty; D Cahill, B Barry, D Walsh; B Collins, J Deane; P Carroll, A Walsh, J Budds; S Long, G Leahy, M Murphy.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Éire Óg).