Na Piarsaigh: Limerick SHC winners for a fourth time
LIMERICK champions Na Piarsaigh play Cork's Blackrock in the Munster club SHC semi final this Sunday (2.00) in the Gaelic Grounds.
Back in the 1999 Limerick SHC and Na Piarsaigh met Garryspillane at the quarter final stage. A replay was needed with one of four points from John Cormack securing a second chance for the Caherdavin club, who had current management members Shane O’Neill and Kieran Bermingham in that team.
Cormack was a 1989 All Ireland SHC medal winner with Tipperary and moved to the Limerick city club from his native Loughmore-Castleiney.
Work then took Cormack from Limerick to Cork and on Sunday his son Ciaran will be in the Blackrock attack that play Na Piarsaigh.
Cormack’s spell with Na Piarsaigh was when the city side were making up the numbers in the Limerick SHC. Fast forward 18 years and the Light Blues are dominant across many levels of Limerick hurling.
The Gaelic Grounds hosts the Na Piarsaigh v Blackrock Munster club SHC semi final on Sunday.
The Limerick champions have an unbeaten run of nine games in the province but have not previously faced a Cork side.
Blackrock come to Limerick as defeated Cork SHC finalists to divisional side Imokilly.
Their county final appearance was their first since 2003 and they are a largely inexperienced outfit, with Stephen Murphy and Michael O’Halloran among their better known players and with some inter-county experience.
They do have a famed tradition and Blackrock actually on top of the Munster club SHC roll of honour with five title in the 1970s.
But Na Piarsiagh are very much the team of now.
Three titles since 2011 and an All Ireland and hot favourites for more provincial silverware.
While Blackrock will come to Limerick under no pressure, Na Piarsaigh are the hottest of 1/6 favourites to reach the November 19 final against old foes Ballygunner or Sixmilebridge.
Such is the expectation of this Na Piarsaigh team, that they are the 7/4 favourites for ultimate success next St Patricks Day in Croke Park. Fifteen teams remain in the championship, with an All Ireland semi final against Ulster champions Slaughtneil of Derry awaiting next Spring for the Munster winners.
Na Piarsaigh must plan without Shane Dowling until the New Year after a knee injury required minor surgery last week. His absence is likely to see Kevin Ryan or Conor Boylan come into the attack with Ronan Lynch switching to midfield or wing back.
Na Piarsaigh have cover aplenty but still their team is in constant transition.
Now commanding starting roles are Niall Buckley, Jerome Boylan and Thomas Grimes with others like Conor Boylan making an impression.
Their maiden voyage was this month back in 2011 when the Sean Stack managed side went to Walsh Park to face Ballygunner. Just six of that starting team are likely to start Sunday afternoon and it’s only six years later.
It’s almost two years since they beat Ballygunner to lift the 2015 Munster title and six of that starting team won’t be in this weekend’s line-up.
Of course the conveyor belt has been steady with six Limerick Premier U-21 hurling titles won since 2012.
Many won went on to win All Ireland U-21 titles with Limerick in 2015 and 2017 and a Munster U-21 title back in 2011. Harty Cups and Fitzgibbon Cups also adorn the medals cabinet on the Northside of Limerick city.
Yet, there is a hunger to add more silverware, especially with the early exit from the 2016 Limerick SHC still a driving force for players and management.
Prediction: Na Piarsaigh