Munster club SHC preview - Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) v Sixmilebridge (Clare)

Jerome O’Connell


Jerome O’Connell

Kevin Downes, Na Piarsaigh
NA Piarsaigh attempt to follow in the foot steps of Patrickswell and Kilmallock in Sunday’s Munster club SHC final in Ennis.

NA Piarsaigh attempt to follow in the foot steps of Patrickswell and Kilmallock in Sunday’s Munster club SHC final in Ennis.

Both have two provincial titles in their roll of honour and both were won inside a three year period.

The Well’s dominance came in 1988 and 1990, while Kilmallock were Munster kings in 1992 and 1994.

Indeed until the Na Piarsaigh win of 2011, Kilmallock were the last Limerick side to win Munster honours.

Standing between Na Piarsaigh and an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Portumna is a Sixmilebridge side that are making a record appearance in a Munster club final on Sunday.

While Sunday’s Sixmilebridge side is youthful, the club certainly have a tradition at this level. This will be the 22nd match in the championship.

Their record to date is won 14, lost 6, drawn 1 with Munster club titles secured in 1984, 1995 and 2000.

Na Piarsaigh have played 5 matches in the competition with a record of won 4, lost 0, drawn 1.

But there is certainly little the separate Sunday’s sides, although the bookies have swayed towards the men in blue and gold after Cusack Park in Ennis was confirmed as the venue.

Indeed they still only make The Bridge the 10/11 favourites.

But Na Piarsaigh can look back to 1990 and take some solace from Patrickswell’s club final win over Eire Og.

The game finished 0-8 to 0-6 for The Well, who were without the suspended Ciaran Carey.

The statistics show that the Munster club final continues to be a tight affair. Only one score separated the finalists from 2004 until 2011.

All in Limerick will be hoping that it will be the scoring power of the Caherdavin men that can see them into the final four of the All-Ireland next Spring.

Ahead of Sunday, they report a clean bill of health but are likely to have at least one change from the semi-final win over Passage with regular full back Kieran Breen returning from suspension.

Breen will slot back into the edge of the square for his expected battle with Niall Gilligan.

Either side will be Niall Buckley and Michael Casey. County minor Casey is one of five current Ardscoil Ris students involved in the final.

He will be the only starter but could face his Harty Cup colleague Alex Morey in the course of the game as the teenager has been used as a corner forward sub by Sixmilebridge.

The Na Piarsaigh half back line will have another Breen in a central role.

After Na Piarsaigh suffered their only championship loss of the year - to Doon on June 16 - the realigned their team and switching David Breen to No6 proven crucial.

One of five inter-county seniors; the display of the centre back will be key with Rory Shanahan a likely direct opponent.

Either side of Breen will be captain James O’Brien and perhaps Alan Dempsey.

Dempsey has played in midfield but Cathal King (who was full back last time in the absence of Kieran Breen) would appear destined for a return to his more natural role in midfield.

Indeed a settled midfield partnership is something Na Piarsaigh have lacked all season.

As well as King, options are William O’Donoghue, Pat Gleeson and even Shane Dowling.

Sean Stack, Paul Beary, PJ Breen and Dave Boylan have actually utilised a three man midfield during many games.

Dowling was best at full forward in recent games and could be set to start at the edge of the square.

An in-form Kevin Downes (1-12 from play in the last three games) will be at centre forward and can expect Sixmilebridge captain Aidan Quilligan to man mark him.

County minor David Dempsey will be one side of Downes, while Kieran Kennedy, O’Donoghue or Gleeson could fill the other role.

If Dowling is to start at full forward that would leave Adrian Breen and Kevin Ryan in the two corners.

Many have expresses fears about the heavy conditions of Cusack Park and there it’s most likely it won’t be a thrill a minute end-to-end spectacle.

But that’s what noteworthy about Na Piarsaigh in 2013 - they are grinding out victories.

For almost 12-months they have secretly targeted a Munster club final.

Proving 2011 was no fluke has been the ambition and no doubt on Sunday, there will be a part of each player that feels they owe something special to Sean Stack.