Na Piarsaigh land crucial punches

AIB All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final - Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) 1-22 Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) 0-20 (AET): Na Piarsaigh will see Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day, the Limerick side casting aside previous semi-final defeats to book their place in the All-Ireland club final on Saturday evening in Thurles.

Na Piarsaigh land crucial punches

Spare a thought for the vanquished, though.

Oulart-The Ballagh of Wexford fought Na Piarsaigh to a draw and went down with their boots on after extra time, a bonus for the 2,566 in Semple Stadium.

The singer has it that November spawned a monster; in the club championship, February has a habit of spawning a classic.

Oulart started with the wind and moved wing-forward Garrett Sinnott to full-forward, where he opened the scoring; corner-forward Rory Jacob drifted out to midfield leaving space inside. The Wexford champions were sharp, and led 0-4 to 0-1 after ten minutes.

Na Piarsaigh moved through the gears to equalise, with Ronan Lynch dominant at centre-back. Two Shane Dowling points (one a free) and a fine Peter Casey effort levelled matters by the 15th minute, and after that it was point for point.

With Rory Jacob outfield Oulart had the busy Nicky Kirwan and Des Mythen putting pressure on their opponents, but they also missed David Redmond’s energy, the midfielder below par after a heavy knock early on.

A fine Mythen point had Oulart ahead as the clock ticked into injury time, but then Na Piarsaigh had the first goal of the game.

Ronan Lynch’s free dropped short, but Breen fielded cleanly and goaled with a net finish.

There was some murmuring about Lynch’s free - he seemed to fluff the pick-up, but repeated viewings on TG4 suggested his hurley had stuck in the ground and possibly nudged the sliotar forward an inch or so.

In fairness to the Oulart management, after the game they played down any significance regarding how the ball was lifted.

What was more damaging to Oulart was their wayward shooting on the resumption. Dowling (free) and Alan Dempsey put four between them early in the second half, with Oulart hitting four wides in response, at least two of which they should have been put over the bar.

By the 40th minute Na Piarsaigh were five up, thanks to a Kevin Downes point, and looking good.

Oulart refused to die - Nicky Kirwan struck two frees to give Oulart hope entering the third quarter, but Alan Dempsey responded with a brace for the Limerickmen.

As Piarsaigh boss Shane O’Neill admitted afterwards, the momentum was now with Oulart.

Mythen and Kirwan made it a two-point game entering the final ten minutes; with five left Kirwan cut the deficit to one; and as the clock showed 60, Kirwan, inevitably knocked over the equaliser from yet another free.

Na Piarsaigh ruled on the resumption, though. Downes snapped over a point when extra-time began, Alan Dempsey drove over another long-range effort soon after and before the break Dowling pointed a free and Will O’Donoghue landed a monster effort; all Oulart had in response was an Eoin Moore free.

Alan Dempsey pointed on the re-restart, and Oulart keeper Conor O’Leary trotted up to take a close-in free but blasted it over the bar. That was Oulart’s chance to snatch victory, and though they were game to the end, Dowling had the last word with a late free, giving Na Piarsaigh their ticket to Dublin 3.

“Whoever got the good start (in extra-time) was going to win it,” said Oulart boss Frank Flannery afterwards.

“I thought we looked fitter in ordinary time, we stressed that to the guys but next minute they go on and they go at you harder. They probably had more finishers than we had on the day.”

His counterpart had plenty of food for thought, particularly Oulart’s second-half fightback.

“It’s a fantastic reflection of them because they gave it a right rattle,” said Shane O’Neill.

“But it’s something we need to look at. Sometimes the minds wander a small bit which showed for those three points before half-time and then going five up and maybe did we relax again instead of trying to keep going.

“So that’s something that we’ll look at. It was a slow start as well, I think we were four points down to nothing.” Plenty to ponder, but plenty for Na Piarsaigh to be optimistic about as well.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh:

D Breen (1-2), S Dowling (0-4 frees)(0-5); K Downes, A Dempsey (0-4) each; D Dempsey, P Casey (0-2) each; R Lynch (free), A Breen, W O’Donoghue (0-1) each.

Scorers for Oulart-The Ballagh:

N Kirwan (0-8 frees) 0-10; D Mythen (0-3); E Moore (0-1 free) (0-2); S Murphy, G Sinnott, T Storey, C O’Leary (free), B Dunne (free) (0-1) each.

NA PIARSAIGH:

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

Subs:

A Breen for K Ryan (38).

OULART-THE BALLAGH:

C O’Leary, B Kehoe (c), K Rossiter, A Roche, K Sheridan, S Murphy, E Moore, D Redmond, M Jacob, T Storey, D Mythen, P Murphy, R Jacob, G Sinnott, N Kirwan.

Subs:

T Dunne for P Murphy (42); K Nimmo for M Jacob (44); B Dunne for D Redmond (52); D Stamp for T Dunne (58); S Doyle for G Sinnott (70); D Redmond for D Mythen (HT ET); D Nolan for N Kirwan (72).

Referee:

F Horgan (Tipperary).

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