NA PIARSAIGH…………..4-14 SIXMILEBRIDGE…………….0-8
By Michael O Connor.
Prematch suggestions of a crowd touching 8000 plus was always a pipe dream and that was evident 30 minutes before the game. The freezing tempatures of recent nights leading to the game relented on the day as the lack of rain allowed a far better surface for this game than was experienced on county final day. Na Piarsaigh who won their first Munster title in 2011 after a replay win over Crusheen were taking on a Sixmilebridge side aiming for their fourth title, the last in 2000.
Four months ago this scribe had a small wager on Na Piarsaigh at 10/1 to win the Munster club after watching them in action. SIxmilebridge accounted for Midleton in the semi final as Na Piarsaigh defeated Loughmore Castleiney and Passage to reach the title decider in Cusack park. It was undoubtedly a crisis of emotions for Sean Stack going up against his native heath, but he had endured same back in 1993 when he was centre back for the Bridge and coach of Toomevara.
A small whiff of sulphur with the potential to produce a hard encounter was all in place as the two clubs regularly play each other. The sheer power of the Limerick champions was telling even in the team photos and went on to have a significant part to play in the outcome of the first half.
Na Piarsaigh quite apparently went out to negate the influence of Caimin Morey by not playing in aimless high ball instead streaming through 10/15 yard low passes to a loose man. The first score was a killer to the home side as Shane Dowling with a low ball found Kevin Downes who struck past the outrushing Derek Fahy. A great start for the visitors to Ennis but still no indication of what was to transpire. Kevin Lynch responded for Sixmilebridge but the hurling for the next ten minutes was all carried out by Na Piarsaigh. Shane Dowling, Adrian Breen, David Dempsey, Pat Gleeson and Shane Dowling once again blitzed the Bridge on and off the ball with Cathal King who is an ex student of St Patricks comp, Shannon totally in control of Niall Gilligan who was moved outfield with little real effect. Sixmilebridge struck three wides they badly needed as scores as Kevin Ryan was outfield sweeping for Na Piarsaigh and Jamie Shanahan doing likewise with a lot less success.
Shane Golden and Niall Gilligan slowed down the efforts of Na Piarsaigh with two scores to leave five between the sides after 23 minutes yet it was still impossible to see how Sixmilebridge were going to impose themselves on the game. The remaining five minutes witnessed five scores as Dowling (2) and Adrian Breen who did well on the mark for the Limerick men with a brace of frees from Niall Gilligan the best the Bridge could muster. Half time Na Piarsaigh (1-8) Sixmilebridge (0-5).
The ball was barely thrown in for the second half when Na Piarsaigh had the ball in the Bridge net once more. A floater sent in by Shane Dowling was diverted to the net by corner forward Kevin Ryan and when Alan Dempsey added a great score from midfield a mammoth ten points was the difference. Caimin Morey and Kevin Ryan who finished the game with (1-3) swopped scores before in desperation Niall Gilligan went for goal from a 30 metre free that normally he would have popped over. At that instant all in Cusack Park knew that the result was only going to favour one side. His effort was saved and cleared. Kevin Downes set up Dempsey for a point before Adrian Breen struck for the winners third goal to leave a surreal 14 points between the sides. Shane Golden, Shane Dowling and Jamie Shanahan kept the scorekeeper busy as those in the stand advising Sixmilebridge realised how futile their efforts now were as the crowd of 3,689 began to empty the rapidly cooler Cusack park. One last effort from Caimin Morey was cleared off the line by Michael Casey. Na Piarsaigh hit (1-2) in the last three minutes as Kevin Ryan (0-2) and substitute David Sheppard with a late late fourth Na Piarsaigh goal announced Na Piarsaigh as a strong contender for an appearance in Croke Park on March 17th. With the final whistle coming Sean Stack moved away from the Na Piarsaigh subs to allow them celebrate as he gracefully sat down moments later in the dugout and was it sweat or a few tears that came from his face, one will never know. He has now delivered 2 senior championships and 2 Munster club titles to Na Piarsaigh. Previous to this he trained Toomevara to two county titles and one Munster club.
The champions now face Portumna in the mid February semi final clash. Ennis will be in the pot as a venue but will probably fixed for Thurles.
Best for the champions were the brilliant Cathal King, David Breen, Alan Dempsey, Kevin Downes, Kevin Ryan, Shane Dowling Adrian Breen and Kieran Breen. SIxmilebridge, faded early on with the factor of seven games in eight weeks getting the better of them.
The Clare champions benefitted greatly from the stalled Clare championship and rebuilt after a poor opening six months on 2013 to time a late run with success. They peaked against an underperforming Newmarket side in the county final and were deserving winners of the title but 2014 will bring a stern test of their credentials.
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, Brian Carey, Paidi Fitzpatrick, Aidan Quilligan, John Fennessy, Caimin Morey (0-1), Noel Purcell, Kevin Lynch, Seadna Morey, Rory Shanahan, Shane Golden (0-2), Alan Mulready, Jamie Shanahan (0-1), Niall Gilligan (0-3), Pa Sheehan. Subs: Sam O Sullivan for Sheehan
NA PIARSAIGH: Padraic Kennedy, Cathal King, Kieran Breen, Michael Casey, Niall Buckley, David Breen, James O Brien, Alan Dempsey (0-2), Pat Gleeson (0-1), William O Donoghue, Kevin Downes (1-0), David Dempsey (0-1), Kevin Ryan (1-3), Shane Dowling (0-5), Adrian Breen (1-2). Subs: John Madden for D Dempsey, Kieran Kennedy for Buckley, David Sheppard (1-0) for A Breen, Brian Hartnett for O Brien, Damian Quigley for Downes,
REFEREE: Colm Lyons (Cork)