Na Piarsaigh claimed the Limerick senior hurling league title in the Gaelic Grounds last Thursday evening with a 3-20 to 2-14 win over county champions Kilmallock.
Both sides were without their respective county senior panellists, and so opportunity beckoned for some fringe players to stake a claim for places ahead of the resumption of the county championship.
In the early going, it was the younger heads that lead the way â€“ Na Piarsaighâ€™s Adrian Breen and Kilmallockâ€™s Jake Mulcahy both began purposefully, and exchanged a pair of points before two Andrew Oâ€™Shaughnessy frees pointed the men in green ahead by two after eight minutes.
Operating at centre-forward, Oâ€™Shaughnessy initially had the better of James Oâ€™Brien before the latter settled in to a fine individual performance.
Limerick minor star Shane Dowling â€“ wearing 14 â€“ did the bulk of his work around the 40, and his frees anchored Na Piarsaighâ€™s challenge through the first quarter. Kilmallockâ€™s Kevin Oâ€™Donnell answered with some long-range frees of his own, and his midfield battle with the energetic Pat Gleeson was one the key individual duels of the contest.
Gleeson put over three super points over the course of the hour, and would have had a goal too had Barry Hennessy not pulled off a top save after a rasping shot from the Na Piarsaigh midfield-man. Hennessy would be beaten on 23 minutes however â€“ Adrian Breen finished superbly after neat approach play from Shane Dowling. Kilmallock just about kept in touch via Oâ€™Shaughnessy, Paddy Connery and late replacement Conor Crowley, but trailed by seven at the break on a score of 1-12 to 0-8.
Tony Considineâ€™s side looked to be in deep trouble just minutes after the restart. Shane Dowling finished to the net after a long delivery caught out the Kilmallock inside line.
At 2-13 to 0-9, the task ahead appeared ominous. Kilmallock though delved into their bag of tricks, and an outstanding flicked goal by Paddy Connery breathed some impetus into their challenge. The sides then swapped points â€“ Kevin Ryan and Liam Walsh raising white flags as Na Piarsaigh sought to re-establish control of the contest.
Ryan and Dowling edged them into a seven-point lead as the game approached its three-quarter mark, only to see the margin quickly reduced to three courtesy of a Conor Moloney goal and another long-ranger from Liam Walsh. With momentum on their side, Kilmallock appeared on course for one their trademark strong finishes.
To their credit, Na Piarsaigh appeared unperturbed by the quick-fire concessions, and an excellent score from the sideline by Kevin Ryan steadied the ship somewhat. Ryan would be forced off with what looked like a nasty injury late on, but his tally of 0-4 â€“ all from play â€“ would prove central to his sideâ€™s victory.
With Dowling on form from placed balls, and James Oâ€™Brien leading a very strong half-back line flanked by Alan Dempsey and Niall Buckley (0-1), Na Piarsaigh were quite comfortable in the end.
Kieran Kennedy notched the gameâ€™s final goal to put the gloss on what was a highly-polished performance by the city side.
In accepting the trophy from county vice-chairman Oliver Mann, Na Piarsaigh captain Kieran Bermingham referenced his sideâ€™s main goal â€“ that of a county senior championship title. Kilmallock will be reasonably satisfied with the performance of their younger players, but will know that some work is needed if they are to maintain possession of the Daly Cup come October.
SCORERS - Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 1-8 (0-8 frees), Adrian Breen 1-3, Kevin Ryan 0-4, Pat Gleeson 0-3, Kieran Kennedy 1-0, Niall Buckley, Robert Sheehan 0-1 each. Kilmallock: Andrew Oâ€™Shaughnessy 0-4 (all frees), Paddy Connery 1-1, Conor Moloney 1-1, Kevin Oâ€™Donnell 0-3 (two frees), Liam Walsh, Jake Mulcahy 0-2 each, Conor Crowley 0-1.
Na Piarsaigh: PÃ¡draig Kennedy, Aidan Hennessy, Brian Hartnett, Kieran Bermingham, Alan Dempsey, James Oâ€™Brien, Niall Buckley, John Madden, Pat Gleeson, Shane Oâ€™Neill, Kevin Ryan, Robert Sheehan, Kieran Kennedy, Shane Dowling, Adrian Breen. Subs used: Paul Downes, Conor Sherlock, Brian Shannon.
Kilmallock: Barry Hennessy, Kevin Oâ€™Mahony, Liam Hurley, David Barry, Liam Walsh, Bryan Oâ€™Sullivan, Conor Crowley, Kevin Oâ€™Donnell, Niall Moloney, Aaron Costello, Andrew Oâ€™Shaughnessy, Conor Moloney, Jake Mulcahy, Paddy Connery, Derek Oâ€™Mahony. Sub used: Barry Enright.