Na Piarsaigh chase Munster title

TWO weeks after Na Piarsaigh finally lifted the Limerick SHC, manager Sean Stack brought his panel to west Clare.

TWO weeks after Na Piarsaigh finally lifted the Limerick SHC, manager Sean Stack brought his panel to west Clare.

Stack has a proud record in the Munster club championship and with six weeks between the Limerick final and the provincial semi-final, the Sixmilebridge man knew that Munster glory was attainable.

Na Piarsaigh trained on Lahinch beach on the Sunday morning and then in the afternoon travelled to Hennessy Park in Miltown Malbay where they played a game between themselves. All day long the rain poured down but it mattered little - Na Piarsaigh were on a new mission.

The shackles were off - the county final victory had released an inner pressure and Stack could see a new confidence in his players.

The Caherdavin men were far from their best against Ballygunner but the new found confidence was evident throughout the field.

Confidence will go a long way on Sunday but all involved with the northside GAA club are well aware that nothing but their best performance of the season will end Limerick’s horrid record in the Munster club championship since the Kilmallock win of ‘94.

There were raised eyebrows when Na Piarsaigh opted to play Sunday’s final in Thurles, rather than toss for Cusack Park of the Gaelic Grounds.

But Stack, Paul Beary, PJ Breen and Donal Hartnett feel that the wide open spaces of Semple Stadium will suit their players.

They travelled to Tipperary last Sunday and certainly have left nothing to chance ahead of the Crusheen challenge.

But the Thurles venue can only benefit Na Piarsaigh if some of their star men rediscover their form.

David Breen and Kevin Downes will be key. As the central spine of the Na Piarsaigh attack they haven’t reach the heights of their own lofty standards in recent games with the free-taking of Shane Dowling accounting for the majority of their scores.

At the other end of the field, Na Piarsaigh’s unheralded defence has been the foundation for their success and only Adare have scored a goal against them in the championship.

But still the north Clare side will focus on Kieran Breen and James O’Brien in an effort to disrupt the Limerick rearguard. On the flanks, Na Piarsaigh have true leaders in Kieran Bermingham and Brian Hartnett, who have been inspirational with their long relieving clearances.

Crusheen’s impressive semi-final win in Pairc Ui Chaoimh was an open affair and Na Piarsaigh will hope for a similar game on Sunday. If they are to exploit the perceived open spaces the delivery of ball into the attack will need to be good and in Walsh Park last time out the crossfield ball worked a treat and could be the ideal ploy on Sunday.

Management have a number of options available to them but the positioning of Shane Dowling will be interesting. Midfield, wing forward, centre forward and corner forward have all seen the presence of the teenager but he appears to offer most when positioned across the half forward line.

Dowling is among those in the Na Piarsaigh team that haven’t enjoyed the best of results on recent visits to Semple Stadium with Limerick and Ardscoil Ris but such is the club form that this should count for little.

Na Piarsaigh haven’t pressed the panic button in any tie this season and that composure will be tested to the limit on Sunday.

Given what they have already achieved with an unbeaten run to ACHL and SHC titles, its surprising to say that Na Piarsaigh haven’t yet produced a full 60-minutes performance of their full potential. If they find that performance on Sunday, the O’Neill Cup will return to Limerick.