THIS weekend two years ago Na Piarsaigh travelled into the unknown.
The destination was Parnell Park with Antrim’s Loughgiel Shamrocks the opposition.
The eventual All-Ireland champions won out 0-27 to 2-13 after extra time with the Limerick side lucky to draw after a thrilling opening 60-minutes.
This time round it’s different for Na Piarsiagh.
“We have learned from that experience of two years ago and it will stand us in good stead,” said defender Kieran Breen this week.
“Two years ago it was a roller coaster for us but this time we have learned from that and are ready. There is a step up in intensity at this stage of the competition and maybe we weren’t ready for that the last time,” he explained.
“The key is to try and maintain your momentum and keep everything ticking over during the minter months.”
Sean Stack and management gave the panel some time off after the Munster final win over Sixmilebridge on November 24.
“It’s a long season given that our first meeting together was November 2012. We had some time off after the Munster final but then we were back doing strength and conditioning work and then onto the field around Christmas,” said the 29 year old Doctor.
“We had three good challenge games against UL, Cork IT and Dublin.”
While happy that his side are ready for the challenge ahead, Breen said it’s hard to pin-point any one difference from previously.
“It’s the little things. I think management have kept us fresh and got some good games and hopefully it will be enough. It’s hard to put your finger on just one thing along but I do think everything has been done to enable us give the best possible account of ourselves.”
He added: “We want to go out and give it our best - we need to match their work rate and intensity and hopefully our performance can follow that.”
The bookies make the Galway men the 8/13 favourites with Na Piarsaigh available at 6/4.
“We are really looking forward to it. We realise its a big challenge with all their experience at this level”.
“Competing against the best is what everyone wants and there is no doubt Portumna have been successful.”
As a defender, Breen will come up against Joe and Ollie Canning and Damien Hayes, among others.
“We will look to get our match-ups right but their individuals tend to move so we would see all players at some stage. It’s a test against the best and that’s what we want. They have some household names and that certainly helps focus our mind on the challenge.”
“But we won’t stand up and admire them.”
Maintaining the standards of their Munster club win is the task for Na Piarsaigh but also a fear.
“Two years ago we did our best hurling at the end of November and that is our main focus to ensure we don’t do that again,” stressed Breen.
“We are really just concentrating on our own game and want to give a good account of ourselves.”
Na Piarsiagh will arrive in Thurles on Saturday with at least five new faces from the All-Ireland semi-final of 2012.
“Management have focused on trying to create a strong panel of players. The among of new players from two years ago is testament to the strength and depth of our panel but also the work that is been done in the club. We have brought along young players and they have settled in perfectly,” outlined Breen.
“It’s a measure of the work at underage in the club and also the strength of the secondary school system that fellas come through that they have plenty experience of big occasions and are ready to slip into the team.”
Kieran Breen is joined in the Na Piarsiagh panel by brothers David and Adrian.
A collar bone injury rules out the youngest of the trio.
“It’s unfortunate for Adrian to get a collar bone injury for a second time is a year but that’s what the big squad is for,” said Breen.
“Hopefully we can give him a date (March 17) to work back towards,” said Breen, who this week in 2006 was full back on Joe McKenna’s Limerick senior hurling team that won the Waterford Crystal Cup final.