NA Piarsaigh bid for a third Munster final appearance in five years this Sunday (2.00) when they play Thurles Sarsfields in the Gaelic Grounds.
Champions in 2011 and 2013, the Caherdavin side are bidding to reach the November 22 Munster club SHC final against Waterford’s Ballygunner.
Indeed victory for Na Piarsaigh this Sunday over Thurles Sarsfields will ensure a third successive Munster club final appearance for the Limerick champions, just as 1988-1990 when Patrickswell and Ballybrown were the standard bearers.
Although Na Piarsaigh have ‘home’ advantage in the Gaelic Grounds, the bookies make Thurles the slight 10/11 favourites to advance to the provincial decider.
Munster champions in 2012, Thurles are backed by Padraic, Ronan and Denis Maher, Mickey Cahill and Lar Corbett.
“Sunday is massive - Thurles come to Limerick with six of the last 10 Tipperary titles and one Munster title. They have stars throughout their team,” said Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neill.
“Everyone is ok except David Breen, who is still out with his broken wrist, which now has pins in it,” reported O’Neill.
The city side are hoping that their run of recent games against Kilmallock, Patrickswell and Sixmilebridge will have their in good stead for Sunday’s semi final.
“We do have a good record in Munster and our unbeaten record is now into a third year but it’s all about what happens on the day - anything can happen and that’s what we have to prepare for,” stressed O’Neill.
“Confidence is not an issue after winning the Limerick title and then coming back to beat Sixmilebridge the way we did,” he recalled.
Sunday’s delayed semi final will bring back memories of the 2010 Harty Cup final between Ardscoil Ris and Thurles CBS. It took two replays on that occasion before Ardscoil Ris lifted their first Harty title.
Kevin Downes, Shane Dowling, Alan Dempsey and Adrian Breen all played in that Ardscoil Ris team and will be central to Na Piarsaigh hopes on Sunday.
Thurles trio Stephen and Denis Maher and Aidan McCormack were all in that beaten Thurles secondary school team.
“A lot of our players would be familiar with their players from the county teams at senior, U-21 and minor level but we wouldn’t be too familiar with them overall - we have played a lot of clubs in challenge game but Thurles are a side that for one reason or another we have never played,” said O’Neill.
“It’s a very different approach in Munster to the Limerick championship because you’re not too familiar with the opposition - sometimes that can be a good thing or sometimes a bad thing. In the county championship we nearly know eachother too well but in Munster there are no hang-ups about the opposition because you are usually not that familiar with them.”
While Sunday is the first meeting of Na Piarsaigh and Thurles, the Tipperary club have met Kilmallock twice in recent times. In both 2010 and 2012, Thurles emerged winners over the south Limerick side and both Munster club games were in Kilmallock.
Thurles were crowned Tipperary champions for the 34th time on the same day that Na Piarsaigh overcame Sixmilebridge in the Munster club quarter final. Thurles beat Nenagh in the Tipperary SHC final, 1-18 to 3-11. It was a Nenagh side managed by former Na Piarsaigh goalkeeper John Fitzgerald.
This Sunday’s game in the Gaelic Grounds was delayed by one week after the untimely death of Thurles selector Jack Griffin, who died on October 31 after being struck by a car.