ON June 1 championship sponsors Credit Union held an open evening in their MPCC offices in Dooradoyle for their local Limerick SHC teams Ballybrown and Patrickswell.
Tim Ryan is a former Limerick County Board officer and vice-chairperson of MPCC Credit Union and during his speech he commented how all could be back in the offices in October ahead of a Limerick SHC final.
Both Ballybrown and Patrickswell had made good starts to the championship but still most would have been hesitant to predict an all-parish county final.
That’s the scenario this Sunday (3.30) the neighbours meet for the fourth time in the Limerick SHC final.
All three previous finals have gone the way of the blue and gold – 1983, ‘87 and 1995.
That ‘95 final was actually the last final appearance of Ballybrown, who have county titles from 1989 and 1991. Sunday will be their sixth county final appearance with Patrickswell the only side to defeat them in a final.
The Well will be chasing a 19th Daly Cup win to bring to level with Ahane on top of the roll of honour. Just Barry Foley and Brian Murray have winners medals from their last success in 2003.
In the intervening years they have lost finals in 2006 (Bruree) and 2015 (Na Piarsaigh).
While Ballybrown and Patrickswell are no stranger the last time they actually met in the Limerick SHC was in the group stages of 2005 – the year Ballybrown were relegated to the IHC. The Well were 4-12 to 1-9 winners back in ‘05.
Ballybrown are in their fourth year senior but the neighbours haven’t met – apart from the 2014 County Cup final, which The Well won 3-22 to 2-17.
So Sunday will see the Daly Cup journey to unfamiliar surrounds after nine years shared between Na Piarsaigh, Kilmallock and Adare.
That trio were on top of most short lists to be crowned champions and Sunday’s finalists met the trio enroute to the Gaelic Grounds showpiece.
As beaten finalists 12-months ago Patrickswell were listed at 7/2 to be crowned champions, but Ballybrown were among the outsiders at 25/1 seventh favourites.
Defeat for Patrickswell in the opening round to Adare but no need for panic in a group where progress was always going to be within their grasp. Four routine wins followed to book a quarter final spot with 5-104 scored and just 3-64 conceded.
While Patrickswell moved quietly into position, across the parish Ballybrown were creating a stir.
Wins over South Liberties and Bruree put them in position to challenge the three favourites in their group and when they finished level and should have beaten Kilmallock, all were beginning to take notice of the men from out the N69.
Perhaps the mid-Summer break came at the wrong time but there was to be no let up from the Clarina men and wins over Doon and Na Piarsaigh saw them move into the business end of the championship unbeaten.
Expectation increased put Ahane were eventually passed at the second attempt. The best was yet to come and Adare had no answer to their work-rate and tempo in the semi final.
Ballybrown’s last final appearance was in 1995 and on that occasion they also beat Adare in the final.
On that occasion the final ended in a 2-19 to 0-8 win for Patrickswell.
All should be much closer on Sunday.
Patrickswell captained by Thomas O’Brien will need stars in Diarmaid Byrnes, Cian Lynch, Kevin O’Brien and Aaron Gillane.
On the opposite side is a Ballybrown side captained by Stephen O’Reilly and with Alan O’Connor, Kyle Loftus and Richie Kenny among their key men.
Sunday’s final won’t be live on television with the winner in Munster club action on November 6 in the Gaelic Grounds against Glen Rovers.
The Cork city outfit have former Limerick hurling and football strength and conditioning coach Dave Moriarty in their management.
The curtain-raiser is the intriguing meeting of Dromcollogher-Broadford and Dromin-Athlacca at 1.30 in the Intermediate Hurling County Cup final.