Na Piarsaigh manager O'Neill targets All-Ireland semi-final glory

Na Piarsaigh manager O'Neill targets All-Ireland semi-final glory

Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O'Neill

OCTOBER 18, 2009, was an historic occasion for Na Piarsaigh. That was the date the north-side club played in their first county Limerick SHC final.

A 17-point mauling, suffered at the hands of Adare, was the outcome on that day, however, the Caherdavin club had something to build on.

It wasn’t long after before Na Piarsaigh got their hands on the Daly Cup – when they defeated Ahane 2-18 to 0-13 in the 2011 decider. Beating the most successful club in the history of the sport in Limerick, showed just how far this team had come.

Shane O’Neill was a member of the team who won the 1994 IHC and was still playing in 2011 when they won the Daly Cup. He now dons the bainisteoir’s bib as he looks to be a part of another historic occasion for the city club this weekend.

Looking back on that day O’Neill admits Na Piarsaigh were “annihilated”.

“Thankfully (former manager) Sean Stack stuck with us,” he added. “We got to a semi-final in 2010 (a defeat to Kilmallock) before winning our first county in 2011.”

After the 2011 success, the Caherdavin side went on to win the Munster title – and repeated the trick in 2013. However, both previous All-Ireland semi-finals ended in defeat.

O’Neill says his side’s experience of two previous All-Ireland semi-finals will not be a factor on Saturday.

“Not really no, because our record is abysmal,” he said. “Oulart-The Ballagh will be riding the crest of a wave after coming out of Leinster after so long as well.

“They are a very good outfit, a serious outfit,” O’Neill said. “Most of their players would either be involved with the Wexford senior panel, or would have been part of their recent successful U-21 teams.”

Reporting a clean bill of health, Na Piarsaigh prepared for this clash with challenge matches against UL and Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare side.

“It was more to get the cobwebs off,” O’Neill revealed adding that it is hard to learn much in January challenge matches. “We wanted to keep things ticking over.

“I was delighted with the new guys, the guys who didn’t play in the Munster championship – they put the starting guys under serious pressure.” 

David Breen could only make an appearance as a substitute in the Munster final but will be looking for a starting berth on Saturday.

“He is available for selection,” the manager said. The injury took a while longer to clear up than he had hoped but he is back in contention.”

It will be the first time in the 2015-16 season that O’Neill will have a full panel of players at his disposal. 

Na Piarsaigh are the bookmaker’s favourites, not only to defeat their Wexford opposition – but to win the Tommy Moore Cup outright.

However, Na Piarsaigh aren’t looking that far ahead and won’t use the carrot of a St Patrick’s Day final for inspiration.

“We will do what we have done all year and assess the opposition and not look ahead,” O’Neill said.

In 2012 Antrim’s Loughiel Shamrocks caught them out in the All Ireland semi-final in Parnell Park. Two years ago a season Portumna side beat them in a monsoon in Thurles.

This Saturday they’ll be hoping to make it third time lucky.