One mission accomplished, it’s on to the next one for Shane O’Neill and Na Piarsaigh.
Neither manager nor club weren’t allowed to dwell on reclaiming the Limerick crown they had lost to Kilmallock last year. Making amends for it was sweet but he gets the sense credit was in short supply for Na Piarsaigh when both the build-up and aftermath of the final was dominated by Patrickswell’s return to the big stage, their first final in nine years.
Na Piarsaigh were simply not as sexy a story. “There was relief in that we were beaten the year before as opposed to anything to do with Patrickswell,” says O’Neill. “We knew they had played well during the year but it seemed to be lost that we were also unbeaten during the year. There was a huge focus on Patrickswell and even since the final there has been a focus on Patrickswell but that’s fine. We won it and there was relief because we hadn’t turned up the previous year when we had only played for 10 minutes.
“Whereas we were in control of this year’s final. The penalties brought them back into it and they had a purple patch there for awhile but overall we were by far the better team.”
The buffer between Na Piarsaigh player and manager was zilch for O’Neill who retired in 2012. A year later and he was chosen as Sean Stack’s successor although he found himself having to play catch-up.
The generation gap between him and the players wasn’t as small as one might have expected. “It’s been enjoyable but difficult at stages as well. I’ve hurled with most of the boys but there’s a few that I haven’t - Mike Casey, Mike Foley, Will O’Donoghue, Ronan and Peter Casey - so that’s a fair collection. They’re all very young.
“Kieran Bermingham is a selector with him and is in a similar situation; he was captain in 2011. Alan Cunningham is helping us out with the selecting and coaching and he’s very good and has been able to give an outside view, which is important.
“We came in late enough close to the championship last year so it was difficult enough to put our own stamp on the stamp and the mentality we wanted to put on the team. They had done so well previously and we just wanted to do something different. We’ve been going game by game. Qualified from the group, qualified on top of the group. Got to the semi-final, deal with the semi-final. Got to the final, deal with the final and now we’ve Sixmilebridge in Sixmilebridge which is going into a cauldron, really.
“I’m sure the atmosphere will be fantastic. A lot of the players would have been in school together and we know each other. We’ve had challenge matches over the years.”
Having won a Harty Cup playing for Ardscoil Rís alongside the ‘Bridge’s Alex Morey and Barry Fitzpatrick, the likes of Ronan Lynch and Mike Casey would be acquainted with some of the men they face just a short 15-minute drive across the border.
Lynch turned in a fine second-half display against Patrickswell, backing up his versatility after being named among the half-forward nominees for U21 team of the year.
“There’s huge expectation because of what he has done at under-age level,” O’Neill acknowledges, referencing his minor exploits. “He didn’t have a good first half but he had a really good second half particularly when he was in at centre-back. He held it very well and laid it off really well. He’s very composed, a very good hurler.
“He’s still a lot of work to do. He missed a lot this year because of the Leaving Cert and he’s nowhere near his capabilities. He’s getting better every day he goes.”
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