So often in the last hectic couple of months, first in their run to a first Clare title in 11 years, then again in their win over Midleton in the Munster semi-final last week, Sixmilebridge have got their tactics spot on.
They got them right again yesterday, Páidí Fitzpatrick doing an even better man-marking job on the dangerous Kevin Downes than he had done on Midleton and Cork’s Conor Lehane last week, team captain Aidan Quilligan limiting Na Piarsaigh’s other Limerick forward star Shane Dowling whenever their paths happened to cross.
And yet, and yet; against a side of Na Piarsaigh’s quality, said Sixmilebridge manager John O’Meara, ‘there is only so much damage limitation you can do’. Dowling was instrumental in setting up two goals, one of those by Downes within 30 seconds of the start, and several others then stepped into the breach, not least corner-forwards Kevin Ryan (1-3) and Adrain Breen (1-2).
“Kevin Downes got in early – we talked a lot about him during the week. We felt he was one of their key men and that we could hold him. The next thing he pops up after a couple of seconds to get the first goal. (After that) Páidí had a super game on him. ”
Bad as it was to concede from that early sucker-punch, worse was to come, the Kevin Ryan goal for Na Piarsaigh within half a minute of the restart, followed by an Alan Dempsey point. “I suppose the one that killed us was the one just after half-time.
“We felt in the last 10 minutes before half-time we were beginning to come into it, but to be hit with 1-1 – I didn’t see the goal, I wasn’t even out of the dressing-room. That was the killer. Today we couldn’t really get to grips with their half-backs and our half-forward line all year has been one of our key lines, an area where we’ve been winning a lot of ball. But they were Munster champions two years ago and they’re that bit farther down the road than we are.
“They have some of the marquee names in Limerick hurling and they’ve got top-class inter-county forwards. When you’ve those on the field – we kept one quiet and didn’t keep the rest of them. That’s the way it goes”
They’re not that much further down the road though — the Bridge are coming strong: “We’ve an awful young squad apart from Gilly (Niall Gilligan), Tadhg Keogh and Paul Fitzpatrick and this is only the start for these lads. It’s been a super year. We won the 21A championship, the junior B championship, were in the semi-final of the intermediate we could have won and we won the senior.
“If you’d told me back May after we losing the first round of the Clare championship that we’d be here contesting the Munster Club final we’d have been thrilled. Our lads have had a great year, I couldn’t be complimentary enough about them.”
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