David Dempsey propels Na Piarsaigh home

Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) 2-15 Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) 0-17: A fine goal by David Dempsey late on finally made this Munster club SHC semi-final safe for Limerick champions Na Piarsaigh, but it was a game overshadowed by the recent passing of Jack Griffin of Thurles Sarsfields.
David Dempsey propels Na Piarsaigh home

The match had been postponed from last week and Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neill put his side’s victory in context after the game.

“Without being patronising, our hearts go out to Thurles Sarsfields,” said O’Neill.

“I was just in their dressingroom and they are absolutely devastated with what they’ve been through. Look, this is a hurling match. Life is very different, as you know.”

In that match Na Piarsaigh came with a storming second half that saw them home, but - surprisingly for two such experienced sides - both teams struggled early on to get their deliveries upfield. Big names on both sides were blocked down before the game settled down five minutes in, Sars a point up thanks to a fine Aidan McCormack effort.

The Tipperary men had the help of the wind, but they also kept Lar Corbett and Denis Maher rotating outfield to the half-forward line, and that created uncertainty among the Na Piarsaigh defenders. Pa Bourke pointed from range and Conor Lanigan hit a better score right afterwards, Sars 0-5 to 0-2 up on ten minutes.

Na Piarsaigh pulled Shane Dowling out to the half-forward line and left space near the Sars goal for Kevin Downes, named at centre-forward but lining out near the square. However, the Limerick men struggled to get Downes into the game, particularly with Thurles captain Padraic Maher covering so well for his other defenders.

Na Piarsaigh had a sniff of goal when Will O’Donoghue drove through the middle of the Sars defence on the quarter-hour but ‘keeper Patrick McCormack saved calmly and lifted the siege: Pa Bourke pointed when Sars went upfield. A Peter Casey point in response made it 0-5 to 0-7 approaching the twentieth minute.

Another fine McCormack point was answered with a long-range Alan Dempsey effort, then a Bourke 65 pushed Sars three ahead. Dowling cut that lead to two with another pointed free.

Na Piarsaigh almost broke through for a goal with five minutes left in the half - Kevin Ryan, through on goal, stopped by a terrific Padraic Maher hook; Sars ‘keeper McCormack then saved smartly from a Dowling snap shot.

Before the break Bourke and Dowling swapped frees, and Alan Dempsey - hitting a superb effort from the wing - and John Maher did the same.

Deep in injury time Sars came close to a goal themselves - Stephen Cahill made a clever run through the middle and freed Lar Corbett near goal with a handpass. Corbett pulled first time but Podge Kennedy in goal for Na Piarsaigh spread himself bravely and diverted the ball over the bar: 0-12 to 0-9.

Na Piarsaigh were sharper on the resumption, and had points on the board from Downes and Kevin Ryan before Bourke pointed a free.

Then the Limerickmen struck - on 37 minutes a long delivery into the Sars defence looked to be trailing wide, only for Peter Casey to fight hard for possession before turning his man and netting from close range - 1-11 to 0-13, and they added a David Dempsey point.

Bourke (free) and Denis Maher tied the game up within five minutes, however, before Dowling nudged Piarsaigh ahead with two frees.

Thurles corner-back David Maher hit the point that steadied the Tipperary ship and Bourke landed another free: level again with ten minutes left.

Na Piarsaigh then hit four wides - two either side of an inspirational run and point by their captain Cathal King. With five minutes left another defender, Mike Casey, drove upfield and released Dempsey for that vital, game-winning goal.

Afterwards Thurles selector Paddy McCormack spoke about preparing for the game.

“It was difficult for a lot of lads, but there was no one worse that Trish (Griffin) and the three kids. Our thoughts and prayers were with them today.

“Hurling is only a game at the end of the day, you know what I mean?

*A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of Jack Griffin of Thurles Sarsfields and those killed last Friday in Paris.

Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields:

P. Bourke (0-5 fs, 0-1 65) 0-8; A. McCormack 0-3; D. Maher, L. Corbett, C. Lanigan, J. Maher, S. Cahill, D. Maher 0-1 each.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh:

S. Dowling (fs) 0-7; D. Dempsey, P. Casey 1-1 each; K. Ryan, A. Dempsey 0-2 each; C. King, K. Downes 0-1 each.

THURLES SARSFIELDS:

P. McCormack, M. Cahill, S. Maher, David Maher, D. Kennedy, P. Maher (c), R. Maher, S. Cahill, B. McCarthy, J. Maher, A. McCormack, P. Bourke, C. Lanigan, L. Corbett, D. Maher.

Subs :

S. Lillis for Kennedy, 50, T. Doyle for Denis Maher, 55; R. Ruth for Lanigan, 57.

NA PIARSAIGH:

P. Kennedy, M. Casey, K. Breen, K. Kennedy, M. Foley, R. Lynch, C. King (c), A. Dempsey, W. O’Donoghue, D. Dempsey, K. Downes, A. Breen, P. Casey, S. Dowling, K. Ryan.

Subs:

P. Gleeson for Foley, 52.

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