“The record is not something we have brought up or even discussed,” said Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neil after their Munster semi-final win over Blackrock.
He was referring to the club’s unbeaten run in the province, amounting to nine games won, plus one draw, since emerging from Limerick in the autumn of 2011.
Even when we spoke again this week, O’Neill was humming the same tune. That the club has never lost a game in Munster, he insisted, is irrelevant on weeks like this.
His opposite number, Ballygunner manager Fergal Hartley, has referenced their own Munster record on several occasions in recent times.
Sixteen Waterford titles, but only once did they conquer Munster. Not good enough.
For Na Piarsaigh, it’s four Limerick wins and four Munster final appearances. Should they succeed on Sunday, they’ll move to second on the roll of honour, alongside St Finbarr’s, and one behind Blackrock, who were Munster champions on five occasions in the ’70s.
As it is Ballygunner now, so it was when Na Piarsaigh first stepped into the provincial arena six years ago.
Na Piarsaigh 3-9
(Munster semi-final, Walsh Park, November 13)
The hosts led by six at the break (0-10 to 0-4), but were reeled in by two Shane Dowling goals in the second half. Shane O’Neill lined out at half-forward, while current selector Kieran Bermingham captained the team from full-back. Just six of this team started the semi-final win over Blackrock a fortnight ago.
Na Piarsaigh 1-11
(Munster final, Thurles, November 27)
The Caherdavin men were again forced to chase proceedings, trailing 0-11 to 1-4 early in the second half. Shane Dowling accounted for 1-7 of their total. Manager Sean Stack said of their reliance on the 18-year old: “We know at least half our forward line did not perform to the best of their ability.”
Na Piarsaigh 1-13
(Munster final replay, Thurles, December 4)
Stack’s charges hit Crusheen for 1-7 without reply in the final quarter to claim a maiden Munster crown less than two months after reaching the summit in Limerick for the first time.
Na Piarsaigh 3-17
Loughmore Castleiney 2-18
(Munster quarter-final, Thurles, October 27)
The Tipperary champions lost David Bourke to a red card two minutes in. On 35 minutes, Kevin Downes bagged a goal for Na Piarsaigh, with Loughmore Castleiney defender Willie Eviston lashing out at David Dempsey as he celebrated the score. The corner-back saw red for the infraction, a 10-point lead becoming seven and a one-man advantage becoming two.
Yet, it wasn’t until the 59th minute that the visitors crept in front.
Na Piarsaigh 0-20
(Munster semi-final, Gaelic Grounds, November 13)
Their sole Munster outing where they failed to raise a green flag. Level at 3-9 to 0-18 with five minutes remaining, Alan Dempsey and Kevin Downes fired over the winning scores.
Na Piarsaigh 4-14
(Munster final, Ennis, November 24)
The largest Munster final winning margin since Blackrock put eight goals past Mount Sion in 1975.
Na Piarsaigh 3-11
(Munster quarter-final, Sixmilebridge, October 25)
The home outfit were 1-12 to 1-3 clear at the break, Na Piarsaigh producing a sensational second 30 to swing the tie in their favour. Kevin Downes and young Peter Casey delivered the crucial goals.
O’Neill said: “My own sister and her family live here in the ’Bridge and they wouldn’t talk to me for two weeks, so we knew there was something brewing. It showed in the first-half, it was all Sixmilebridge, but there was absolutely no panic inside in our dressing room at half-time.”
Na Piarsaigh 2-15
Thurles Sarsfields 0-17
(Munster semi-final, Gaelic Grounds, November 15)
The game, initially postponed by a week, was overshadowed by the passing of Thurles’s Jack Griffin. After the game, O’Neill said: “I was just in the Thurles dressing room and they are absolutely devastated with what they’ve been through. Look, this is a hurling match. Life is very different, as you know.”
Na Piarsaigh 2-18
(Munster final, Thurles, November 22)
Ballygunner were without the two O’Mahonys (Philip suspended, Pauric injured), while their rivals were missing injured pair, Kevin Downes and David Breen. The latter, despite having pins removed from his wrist days earlier, came on with 20 minutes remaining and made a telling contribution. Behind by 1-7 to 1-4 at the interval, the Limerick men clipped five unanswered points upon the resumption and were not caught.
Na Piarsaigh 2-26
(Munster semi-final, Gaelic Grounds, November 5)
Two goals just after the quarter-hour mark — Peter Casey and David Breen the providers — wrapped up the verdict. Ronan Lynch, handed dead-ball responsibilities in the absence of the injured Dowling, finished with 0-15.
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