NA PIARSAIGH................3-11 SIXMILEBRIDGE..............1-15
By Michael O Connor.
Sixmilebridge exit the Munster club race at the first hurdle in Sixmilebridge at the hands of one of their big rivals Na Piarsaigh following a game of two halves performance wise for both sides. Ultimately it was the guile, strength and greater direct hurling of the visitors to O Garney park that earned the Limerick champions a home game against Thurles Sarsfields on Sunday week.
Once more Sixmilebridge found Na Piarsaigh too much to handle and once more the concession of goals costs success against the Limerick champions. The youthful nature of the Sixmilebridge attack did not work against a mature Na Piarsaigh defence in the second half when scores were at a premium. One of the successes of the Na Piarsaigh team was their management of Niall Gilligan as his effect on the game was limited for the first time in this year's championship.
What transpired in the second half cannot be discussed on an ipad, or laptop or stats. It was to many of us who hanker for the old style hurling that is now mocked by the 21st century simple man for man long ball and let the best man win.
Playing with a stiff breeze in the first half down into the scoreboard goal Sixmilebridge were held by Na Piarsaigh in the opening five minutes worrying the home side who required a positive start. Brian Corry opened the scoring from play after less than a minutes action. Ronan Lynch and Niall Gilligan entered the referee's notepad soon after as Padraig Kennedy saved well from Alex Morey after Corry put the ball across the Na Piarsaigh square. Niall Gilligan opened his account from a free in the 6th minute. Disaster for the Bridge when Shane Dowling passed to Dempsey who raced in and shot for goal. The ball was deflected into the path of Adrian Breen and against the elements Na Piarsaigh were a point clear.
A brace of frees from Gilligan and one from Dowling had the sides level on (1-1) to (0-4) after 11 minutes. At this interval no one could have predicted the half time score as four more minutes elapsed before the next score with Alex Morey restoring the Sixmilebridge lead. This signalled a deluge of points in the intervening 15 minutes as the home side added (1-7) opposed to a paltry yet vital two points from Na Piarsaigh. Brian Corry who retired injured soon after added his second score before Shane Golden set up the inrushing Cathal Malone for Sixmilebridge's only goal in the 19th minute. Niall Gilligan, Alex Morey, Conor Deasy and Brian Carey were all on target in the space of four minutes and now Sixmilebridge were (1-9) to (1-1) ahead. David Dempsey and Cathal Malone swopped scores and likewise for Shane Dowling and Shane Golden to round off the first half scoring as Sixmilebridge appeared comfortable (1-12) to (1-3) leaders.
A far more determined Na Piarsaigh appeared for the second half as the throw in tussle suggested. A huge long delivery was caught by Kevin Downes seconds into the new half and he blasted to the net. He added a pointed 30 seconds later. Niall Gilligan and Dowling exchanged scores by the 39th minute as Sixmilebridge were a little rattled but leading (1-14) to (2-5). A minute later and the game defining score that signalled trouble for one side and a smell of victory for another. Another booming high ball in was caught by Downes under pressure from three and a deft handpass to Peter Casey saw the corner forward rifle the ball past the helpless Derek Fahy. Three points was now the Bridge lead and that was cut to the minimum five minutes later following scores from Adrian Breen and Kevin Ryan with a sole response from Niall Gilligan in the 47th minute which was the last Sixmilebridge point of the game.
Sixmilebridge now emptied their bench and appeared to be unsure how to handle the increasing dominance of the Limerick champions. The equaliser came from a massive free from Ronan Lynch right beside the SIxmilebridge dugout that split the posts. It was now apparent that the game was there to be won by Alan Cunningham's men. With eight minutes remaining Adrian Breen finally put his side ahead. Na Piarsaigh hit seven second half wides. Derek Fahy pulled off a great save to deny Adrian Breen in the 55th minute as Breen was now roaming the field unhindered. Na Piarsaigh went two clear when Shane Dowling converted the 65.
The last four minute was spent in the Na Piarsaigh half of the field as now the home side required a goal. 1 minute of injury time turned into nearly four and Sixmilebridge were awarded a free that was poorly struck and with that the final whistle and a brief altercation involving a Bridge player that interrupted wild Na Piarsaigh celebrations.
Best for the winners included Padraig Kennedy, Kieran Breen, Cathal King, Ronan Lynch, Alan Dempsey, my man of the match David Dempsey, Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and Mike Casey. Sixmilebridge struggled for the first quarter, were devastating in the second quarter and outplayed in the second half.
NA PIARSAIGH: Padraig Kennedy, Mike Casey, Kieran Breen, Kieran Kennedy, Cathal King, Ronan Lynch (0-1), Mike Foley, Alan Dempsey, Will O Donoghue, Kevin Ryan (0-1), David Dempsey (0-1), Adrian Breen (1-2), Shane Dowling (0-5), Kevin Downes (1-1), Peter Casey (1-0). Subs: Pat Gleeson for Ryan.
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, Barry Fitzpatrick, Aidan Quilligan, Seadna Morey, Noel Purcell, Caimin Morey, Paidi Fitzpatrick, Jamie Shanahan, Conor Deasy (0-1), Cathal Malone (1-10, Niall Gilligan (0-7), Brian Carey (0-1), Brian Corry (0-2), Shane Golden (0-1), Alex Morey (0-2). Subs: Alan Mulready for Corry, Danny Morey for A. Morey, Pa Sheehan for Deasy, Kevin Lynch for Malone, Tadgh Keogh for Purcell.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).