Na Piarsaigh will enter the county final next Sunday as favourites but Patrickswell have offered enough this season to suggest they have emerged as serious contenders.
Their display last Sunday against Adare will have sent a very clear message to Na Piarsaigh and it looks like we might just have the makings of a very good game of hurling. The last few years have been difficult for Patrickswell. It has to be remembered that the last two saw them compete in the County Cup with the same group of players but manager Ciaran Carey and coach Mark Foley have instilled belief and confidence in this group.
Their performance against Adare was dominant, decisive and determined and in reality they blew a very tame Adare side away. This was the poorest performance I have ever witnessed from Adare. They were lacking in many areas but it was disappointing to see no bite or passion in their play. To lose in the manner in which they did will set them back a bit because it looked like they had thrown in the towel long before the finish. The day belonged to Patrickswell. They were the team that showed hunger, passion and work rate from the very start. They were well drilled, well organised and their hurling was at a level that Adare just could not match.
Adare could only manage four points in each half and that tells its own story. Adare struggled in every line, they were also found wanting on the line as they were outsmarted by a far sharper Patrickswell outfit. What I liked about Patrickswell was that they played fast, purposeful, direct ball and it caused havoc for the Adare defence.
The game was controlled by the Patrickswell middle eight. The half backline was really solid, the midfielders and half forward line were totally dominant and never allowed Adare gain any control. Diarmaid Byrnes was magnificent at centre back and was well supported by Mark Carmody and Sean O’ Brien. Indeed the Patrickswell full backline of Kelvin Lynch, Barry Foley and James Carrig were smart, efficient and showed vision when on the ball. It must be said that Brian Murray is back to his best. It’s clear he has made a massive effort himself and such work rate and drive makes him a serious contender for a recall to the Limerick senior panel.
The game was over as a contest after 15 minutes. It was that simple. Leading 0-8 to 0-2 it was clear Patrickswell were miles ahead of what Adare had to offer. Adare needed their big players to deliver but they were not allowed. Patrickswell forced Adare to hit some short puck outs and this is a skill that does not rest easy with Shane O’Donoghue. It was to be the cause of some telling scores but it resulted in Adare having very little options to aim at. To O’Donoghue’s credit he was offered little assistance by his outfield players who were in most cases second to every ball.
With 20 minutes gone Patrickswell led 2-10 to 0-3. Two cracking goals from Lar Considine and Thomas O’Brien wrapped the game up and from then on it was all putting a better complexion on the scoreboard for Adare. It was a bitterly disappointing display from Adare. They had the benefit of that extra game with Ahane but it didn’t look that way last Sunday.
The last time Patrickswell won a county title was in 2003 and the last time they were in a final was in 2006. The years that followed were difficult to take for a club that had won so much. Many great players left the scene and on reflection they might well have taken their eye off the ball during those good days at underage level.
Many people have worked very hard - their names won’t be in the programme next Sunday but in a quiet way it’s those people that must get a huge amount of credit for working with the young players over the years. Seven of the Feile Na NGael team that won in 2008 started last Sunday while another six were on the bench. It hasn’t happened by accident. These lads had to endure some hard days in the past to Na Piarsaigh at various levels. They had to navigate their own way.
There was a time in this club when lads coming along watched on as county titles were won every other year but it has taken patience, hard work and often pain to see the club back as contenders. Some years ago the club was not in a great place and it was left to a few to restore. Paul Foley came in as Chairman and that in many ways was the turning point for the club.
He was well assisted by others but he was the man that was left picking up the pieces at a very difficult time for the club both on and off the field. Kieran Carroll is now in the hot seat and has continued the good work. It takes a lot of effort to make a club work, people deliver in many ways and all play a vital part in keeping the GAA the centre of the community.
County Final day is a massive occasion in the life of a club and next Sunday great rivals Na Piarsaigh and Patrickswell will go all out to attain the honour of champions.
I am expecting a very close game and one that might see defences play a key role.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to two outstanding G.A.A people who passed away this week. Jimmy Breen from Kilteely and Eamon Riordan from Kilmallock gave superb service. To both families I offer my sincere sympathies.