There’s a little history between Ballygunner and Na Piarsaigh. Given the pool of clubs jostling to get out of the Munster club SHC, that’s hardly surprising, but Paul Flynn is worried that the backstory may be more beneficial to the Limerick champions than to his club mates in black and red.
“What I’d point out is that Na Piarsaigh won their first Limerick title in 2011 and they came down to Walsh Park to play Ballygunner in the Munster club. A club’s first outing in the provincial championships, travelling away to a more experienced team, all of that.
“And Ballygunner had them beat the same day, but Na Piarsaigh got two quick goals late-on. They won that day and went on to win the Munster club championship. It reminds me a bit of what happened when I was playing myself. When we’d win the Waterford championship, our nemesis teams in Munster were always the Clare champions: St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield, Wolfe Tones, Clarecastle. And it turned into something that people read a lot into.” Flynn breaks down the benefit of an early win in a rivalry: “I think, if Ballygunner had beaten Na Piarsaigh that day, back in 2011, there wouldn’t be any talk of them not being able to beat Na Piarsaigh now.
“The first game between two teams like that is very important, because if you win it, I think you nearly have the other team in a box. Na Piarsaigh would think that of Ballygunner — ‘they couldn’t put us away when we were inexperienced, and we’ve gone on to win an All-Ireland club since, and other Munster clubs, and as long as we work as hard as Ballygunner, we’ll beat them.’ “I think that’s how they’ll be thinking.” Flynn also points to similarities between Thurles Sarsfields and Ballygunner.
“I’d be concerned that Ballygunner had Thurles Sarsfields up on a bit of a pedestal, before playing them; even travelling around for work, I’d have been hearing that a lot, that ‘Thurles are the team to beat’. I never thought that. They’re a bit like Ballygunner, in that they’ve had it a bit easy the last couple of years in Tipperary, as Ballygunner have had it in Waterford.
“They’ve one Munster club title, which is a very good comparison to make with Ballygunner. You see the likes of Kilmallock winning Munster clubs, because they don’t put anyone on a pedestal — they go out and play the matches.
“There’s a danger there, if Ballygunner are convinced Thurles are the yardstick in Munster, because I don’t believe they are. Ballyea beat them last year.
“It’s a tricky thing for Ballygunner to get out of their heads — thinking they’ve slain a big monster in ThurlesSarsfields, when the big monster is waiting in the final.” Na Piarsaigh come into the final on the back of a comprehensive win over Cork runners-up, Blackrock.
“I suppose, getting beaten in a county final and then having to go out and play Munster club after it,” says Flynn, “that’s the worst-case scenario for any club, after losing a county final — to a division stretching from Youghal into Sarsfields, but that’s an issue for Cork.
“When Na Piarsaigh got a good start in that game, Blackrock were never going to come back. That said, Ballygunner did well, going in five down at half-time to Sixmilebridge and winning, then, by four points, with time almost up.
“But Sixmilebridge had a 41-year-old as one of their best players. Na Piarsaigh are three-time Munster champions: they’re missing Shane Dowling, but I’d argue Brian O’Sullivan is a bigger loss for Ballygunner.
“Ronan Lynch got 15 points the last day for Na Piarsaigh, against Blackrock, so there’s their free-taker to replace Dowling.” Flynn says Ballygunner have improved, though.
“It’s our ninth Munster club final, and we have one victory. It’s always a Waterford team that seems to be trying to stop a losing run. Clare, Limerick, Tipp — their champions all came in to win it.
“It’s always a little bit of history that a Waterford team is trying to beat, but Ballygunner have a lot going for them. The backline is very strong — Ian Kenny wasn’t playing last year and is very good, Barry Coughlan is a very good full-back, and Eddie Hayden has come on a lot. Philip Mahony was unbelievable against ThurlesSarsfields.
“They’re growing, definitely. I think the last two games have definitely brought them on. Whether we have the firepower to score 1-18, or whatever, you’d need to beat Na Piarsaigh. We’ll have to see.
“It’d be a great championship to win, after the games Ballygunner have come through to get this far.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved