Things we learned
Na Piarsaigh looked to be in serious trouble five minutes into the second-half after a trio of points from Pauric Mahony, Peter Hogan and Barry O’Keeffe – all of them beauties from open play – put Ballygunner four points clear.
The reaction to that adversity was the sign of champions. From there to the finish, the Limerick men racked up 3-9 to the opposition’s 1-3, upping their physicality and trusting in the players and processes that had seen them through so often before.
Kevin Downes wasn’t biting on the theory that muscle memory had a lot to do with that but it is hard to sit back and watch Na Piarsaigh click into gear and not suspect that the winning habit informs a side in such circumstances.
Pauric Mahony is a superb player for club and county. He has claimed honours at Harty Cup and Fitzgibbon levels as well so let us just stress that this is by no means an attempt to hang any one man out to dry. But the fact is that his dead-ball striking was way below the mark required and it cost Ballygunner on a day when they needed pretty much everything to click against a side of Na Piarsaigh’s experience and ability.
It was only at the fag-end of the game that Barry O’Keeffe was directed to take over the frees but surely there must be a contingency plan that instigates that change sooner.
Paul Flynn spoke in these pages two days ago about how the first meeting between sides can set the agenda for future clashes down the line and that agonising Ballygunner loss to Na Piarsaigh in 2011 seems particularly crucial now given the latest reversal.
This was the Waterford side’s third loss in three meetings with the north Limerick city side inside seven seasons and it will be particularly painful given the Déise men had seen off Thurles Sarsfields and Sixmilebridge.
John Kiely named his 38-man Limerick panel last week and, though there were 10 Na Piarsaigh men listed, Adrian Breen wasn’t among them.
If Breen has been left out simply on the basis of his ability – and not because he has made himself unavailable through work or other reasons – then it bodes well for the county that they can do without him as they seek to escape Division 1B and turn towards the summer.
The forward claimed 1-5 for himself yesterday afternoon in Thurles and he now has the distinct honour of having earned man of the match awards in a Limerick hurling final (2017), a Munster decider and in the 2015 All-Ireland final win over Cushendall.
The next calendar year will be a revolutionary one given the tweaks made to the GAA’s master fixtures list with both the club and county games destined to feel the effects, whether good or bad.
What isn’t in doubt is the fact that November is no time to be playing hurling and yesterday’s tie in Thurles only emphasised that as two sides replete with class struggled to offer up much that was aesthetically acceptable.
Players slipped time and again and congregated in massed huddles as the sliotar became bogged down on a heavy pitch. It’s no way to treat players, coaches and supporters who give so much.
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