Eoghain Sherlock was the penalty saving hero for Na Piarsaigh, as the Limerick outfit eventually squeezed past Tipperary champions Ballina following a penalty shootout.
The 23-year-old denied Tippeary star, Steven O’Brien twice, as well as Jack O’Mahony with a trio of spot kick saves. Saving from O’Brien in the second half, the keeper helped Na Piarsaigh into their first provincial football decider, after losing out at the same stage in 2013.
It became clear that Na Piarsaigh practiced their spot kicks, scoring 4 of their 5 against a League of Ireland goalkeeper, Jack Brady. Indeed, the conviction shown was something that Sherlock had seen already.
“During the week in training, they were all taking the mick out of me, I couldn’t save any of the penalties. I was wondering which way he could go. I waited for the last minute and guessed to be honest. It is worse for the takers. As a keeper it is hard to save them, so it’s a bit easier and a bit of chat can put them off!”
The game itself was an underwhelming affair, with neither side able to shake off the other
“We are a lot better than that. We know what we have to work on, we’ve Rathmore coming up. We just needed to get a win today, and we got it.”
Level at half time, 1-1 to 0-4, Eoghan Power had landed two fine points for Ballina, but in reply came a goal from Dylan Cronin on five minutes. Sherlock denied O’Brien from the spot on 32 minutes and with the sides only scoring two points apiece during the second half, the near misses from Ballina proved costly.
Cronin’s 51st minute free was nearly enough, only for sub Jack O’Mahoney to land a 60th minute leveller.
The luckless O’Brien would end with four points and his final effort, in the second period of extra-time, gave Ballina a strong looking two-point lead. But their failure to retain the ball allowed Na Piarsaigh in for two quick points, as Evan Sweeney tied the game up for the fifth and final time.
Sherlock denied O’Brien and O’Mahoney as Gordon Brown, Jack Barry and Kieran Daly all converted. Teddy Doyle and Jack Brady would convert as Brady saved from Cronin. The final say went to Evan Egan, who was re-introduced in extra-time. His penalty booked their final spot, against Kerry champions, Rathmore.
D Cronin 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1m); K Daly 0-2; E Sweeney 0-1.
S O’Brien 0-4 (0-3f); E Power 0-2; J O’Mahoney, D Kelly 0-1 each.
E Sherlock; D Ryan, S Walsh, J Barry; C McMullan, R McCarthy, E O’Brien; G Brown, R Ó Connaill; K Nolan, D Cronin ©, D McLoughlin; K Daly, E Sweeney, E Egan.
J Daly for Egan (41), E McNulty for Walsh (50), R Sheehan for Ó Conaill (60+1), S Walsh for McMullan (61), E Egan for Nolan (65), D McLoughlin for Leonard (65), R Houlihan for J Daly (70).
J Brady; P O’Donovan, J Egan, T O’Halloran; C Power, J Hanley, S Loughran; M Breen, D Kelly; B King, E Power, T Doyle; T Lee, S O’Brien, D Grace.
J O’Mahoney for King (42), C O’Donnell for Grace (42), E Dalton for Breen (53), B Connolly for Doyle (56), H Byrne for Loughran (73), M Breen for Kelly (77).
Chris Maguire (Clare).