ADARE and Na Piarsaigh meet in Sunday’s Limerick SHC final. Jerome O’Connell previews the final, which has a 3.30 start in the Gaelic Grounds.
“Who’s laughing now,” beamed Kieran Bermingham in his acceptance speech as he captained Na Piarsaigh to their first Limerick SHC.
That historic break through was in 2011.
But two years previous Na Piarsaigh were left in tatters as Adare inflicted a 17-point defeat in the Caherdavin men’s maiden county final appearance.
This Sunday, the sides meet in championship hurling for the first time since that 1-17 to 0-3 landslide win in Adare’s fifth county title success.
Certainly both sides have changed in the last four years, but there are sufficient numbers left in the Light Blues’ camp to recall the hurt of that county final day.
But most importantly for all in Na Piarsaigh, they want to prove that 2011 was no ‘one off’.
There is no doubting they were still feeling the effects of a long 2011 season during their title defence last year.
They have returned this year with renewed enthusiasm and helped by a mid season defeat to Doon, they look a much better balanced side.
The Breen brothers Kieran and David now provide a solid backbone to their defence.
Michael Casey and Niall Buckley are newcomers at corner back, while Cathal King and captain James O’Brien join David Breen in a strong half back line.
Midfield continues to change with Alan Dempsey, Pat Gleeson and William O’Donoghue all options.
Attack is the sector that most will speak of with Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and Adrian Breen capturing many headlines.
But they also have free-scoring players in Kevin Ryan and David Dempsey.
Other options include David Sheppard, Kieran Kennedy, Damien Quigley and perhaps injury stricken John Madden.
Their attack have goaled in each game and scored five goals in the knockout stages.
This no doubt will be a target again on Sunday.
The Adare rearguard have looked in trouble during periods of recent games but have still largely held the opposition at bay.
Shane O’Donoghue will keep goals for Adare with PJ Hall in reserve.
In front of him will be long serving full back John Paul Healy and Stephen Lavin.
Also in the full back line will be Jeff Lohan or Michael Clifford.
Like Na Piarsaigh, the Adare half back line can be key with Ross Kennedy, Wayne McNamara and Gearoid Ahern.
The mobile pair of John Fitzgibbon and Jodie Hannon form the midfield partnership and could be an area Adare could gain some profit.
In attack, Adare have trump cards in Declan Hannon and Willie Griffin.
Donnacha Sheehan and Conor Fitzgerald bring all the experience of winning five Limerick SHC titles.
Then completing the sextet will be Paul Keane and Diarmuid Sexton.
Keane is vital to win ball, distribute ball and has also chipped in with scores.
Played full forward in the quarters but at No11 in the semi-final. A battle with David Breen could be intriguing.
Very little will separate the teams but Na Piarsaigh could just have enough to get over the winning line.
Inter-county colleagues Shane Dowling and Wayne McNamara are likely to do battle.
McNamara drives Adare forward from centre back and getting on top of the Adare captain would be a job well done for Dowling.
The U-21 player hasn’t hit top form in 2013 and scores from play on Sunday to supplement his accurate free-taking would go a long way towards a Na Piarsaigh win.
The sides met in the county senior hurling final of 2009.
It was Na Piarsaigh’s first ever final appearance, while Adare were enroute to title No5.
It finished 1-17 to 0-3 on a day to Ger O’Loughlin’s men.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS
Na Piarsaigh are the favourites with the bookies but there is not a lot in it.
They are listed at 8/15, while Adare are available at 7/4 with a draw at 9/1 likely to attract some attention.
STORY SO FAR
Neither side reach Sunday’s final with a 100% record.
Adare beat Murro-Boher and Bruree to all but book a quarter-final spot. But then lost to Knockainey and only advanced on scoring difference. Knockout wins over Ballybrown and Doon were most impressive. Na Piarsaigh beat Granagh-Ballingarry but then lost to Doon and had to regroup to beat Patrickswell and then Ahane and Kilmallock to reach a third final.
WATCH OUT FOR
The form of all the seven inter-county men will be key while others will stake a claim for 2014.