NA PIARSAIGH………….1-13 CRUSHEEN……..0-9
By Michael O Connor.
The Crusheen and Na Piarsaigh saga was concluded in devastating style in Thurles before 2,486 patrons as the Limerick champions captured the Munster crown with a last quarter of powerhouse hurling. When looking back at the stats it was amazing that Crusheen even made the Munster decider never mind push it to a second day out as they went nearly five hours without a goal in competitive hurling as Na Piarsaigh scored five goals alone in the Munster campaign.
Groundhog day for the hurlers of both clubs who during the last outing saw their ribbon being put on the cup and taken off on a number of occasions in what could be described as a tension laden affair laced with a number of solid personal displays. The Crusheen backs after a shaky opening ten minutes contained Na Piarsaigh whilst the Crusheen forward flattered to deceive early on only to waste gilt edge scoring opportunities in the final ten minutes after the Limerick champions had come from four behind to sneak one ahead.
Both sides would have spent the intervening seven days boosting their morale up saying that they should have won, how the lost it and where to improve for this mouthwatering replay. As much debate centred on the admission price and who refused to agree a toss than on playing matters on the pitch even though it mattered little to the two teams.
Would Crusheen make changes to their starting lineup as Na Piarsaigh content that they had held the Crusheen forwards change their forward formation that had underperformed in the eyes of many Limerick supporters? These were among the matters concerning those close to the two panels as was the weather conditions that might greet the competitors on Sunday morning after a horrific week of wind and rain.
All these questions along with many more unmentioned allied to what promised to be a brilliant tactical battle were lining up as key components of round two between two sides, who not alone were battling in their first Munster final but who between them have just three county crowns in Clare and Limerick. Crusheen uses of substitutes or lack of same was a key talking point after the drawn game and in direct contrast Sean Stack brought on four replacements. Crusheen moved before the game even began announcing that Tony Meaney would replace cousin Joe in the Crusheen starting line up. Tony, an ever present in the side for over half a decade captaining the side in 2007 and winning at midfield in 2010 lost his place due to injury in August as Conor O Donnell who was top scorer from play in 2010 had also made way midway through the season and he was another who was tipped for a longer cameo than five minutes second time around.
The driving rain, biting wind ensured that the small and not so small brandy was most welcoming to those who frequented Hayes Hotel prematch from both sides. Crusheen elected to carry out their usual warmup whilst Na Piarsaigh went for the short sharp burst coming on the field with less than ten minutes to throw in. The intentions of Na Piarsaigh were signalled when after only three minutes they had three men in the referee’s book namely Kevin Downes, David Breen and Brian Hartnett as Pat Vaughan was subjected to heavy hits. Both sides hit wides before Kevin Downes opening the scoring after 7 minutes action in which the hurling was often stopped for throw ins. Crusheen’s Tony Meaney finally got his side on the scoreboard after ten minutes as Kevin Downes and Kevin Ryan hit minors in the space of a minute as Na Piarsaigh went two clear. Pat Vaughan sent over a long range free in the 14th and when Jamie Fitzgibbon finished off a move he started the sides were level on 3points a piece.
Crusheen began to take over the game dominating but not getting the all important goal as Na Piarsaigh lucky not to give away a penalty after Fergus Kennedy was upended after he was clear on goal. Jamie Fitzgibbon and David Forde added points by the 21st minute only for Na Piarsaigh to claw themselves back into the game as Crusheen forwards began to foul. Cathal King hit a point in the 23rd as the game was beginning to look like a carbon copy of the drawn game seven days previous. The score remained at 5pts to 4 in favour of Crusheen until the break despite both sides having chances especially Na Piarsaigh.
Crusheen lived on their nerves for the opening three minutes of the new half and Na Piarsaigh levelled the game when David Breen hit onto a loose ball. Once more Crusheen when they looked in trouble rallied greatly led by the 19 year old centre forward Jamie Fitzgibbon as the sun appeared at Semple Stadium. Na Piarsaigh missed (1-3) from frees and play in the opening ten minutes of the new half as Shane O Neill hit straight across the face of the Crusheen goal. A brace of points from Fitzgibbon and a free from Vaughan by the 41st minute had Crusheen three clear and looking possible winners if they could sneak an unlikely goal.
After 46 minutes Crusheen were still ahead by three points (0-9) to (0-6) but pressure was increasing from Na Piarsaigh as the final quarter was dominated by Sean Stack charges. The crucial introduction of Adrian Breen reaped dividends as Shane Dowling who had been the scoring hero in the drawn encounter was replaced in the scoring stakes by Breen. He hit (1-3) with the goal coming in the 58th minute after fine set up work by Dowling and Downes. Dowling finished the final minutes well with two long range frees as Breen had the final score of the game as Na Piarsaigh were getting ready for the homecoming to Caherdavin.
Na Piarsaigh were well served by David Breen, James O Brien who was selected man of the match yet his direct marker finished with four points in a roving role, Cathal King did well at midfield with Kevin Downes early on, Shane Dowling from frees, Alan Dempsey and Kieran Breen also to the fore for the deserving winners.
Crusheen have enjoyed a fairytale two years with character being a key component in their performances over this period. In Na Piarsaigh over the two days they had chances but when the goal drought continued it was never really going to be Crusheen’s crown. Best for Crusheen were Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Cathal Dillon, Cian Dillon, David Forde, Jamie Fitzgibbon and Tony Meaney in the first half.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Touhy, John Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Ciaran O Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Tony Meaney (0-1), Patrick Vaughan (0-3), Gearoid O Donnell, Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-4), David Forde (0-1), Patrick Meaney, Gerry O Grady, Fergus Kennedy. Subs: Conor O Donnell for Forde, Joe Meaney for T Meaney,
NA PIARSAIGH: Padraig Kennedy, David Lynch, Kieran Breen, Kieran Bermingham, Brian Hartnett, James O Brien, Alan Dempsey, Pat Gleeson, Cathal King (0-1), Kevin Ryan (0-1), David Breen (0-2), Shane Dowling (0-3), Shane O Neill, Kevin Downes (0-2) , Kieran Kennedy (0-1). Subs: Adrian Breen (1-3) for Gleeson, Aidan Hennessy for Bermingham, John Madden for O Neill,
REFEREE: Cathal McAllister (Cork).
After the game the vice chairman of the Munster council Robert Frost presented the Munster club cup to Na Piarsaigh captain Kieran Bermingham.