Limerick Senior Hurling Championship Final – Na Piarsaigh 2-18 Ahane 0-13

Powerful Piarsaigh end famine

Na Piarsaigh 2-18, Ahane 0-13

By Jim O’Sullivan for the Irish Examiner newspaper

“THE famine is over, let the feast begin,” rejoiced team captain Kieran Bermingham after his fledgling north city Limerick club, set up in 1968, won a first county senior hurling title with a comprehensive victory over Ahane at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday. Motivated by the bad memory of a mauling from Adare in their first final two years ago, favouritism based on youth and skill was more than justified.

Given the boost of a fortuitous goal in the 10th minute and firmly shutting the door on a potential Ahane recovery at the three-quarters stage with a second goal from Shane Dowling, the excellence over their overall display made them deserved winners. With Bermingham stating that they were “laughed at” two years ago and proclaiming that, “the boys of 2009 are now the men of 2011”, jubilant manager Sean Stack agreed his team had learned a lot in the interim period. “We were lucky that seven of them were on the Limerick U21 panel this year and six of them played in that hectic Munster final here against Cork. “Those are things you can’t buy. You have to experience a game like that and be a part of it and grow up. We had three on the Limerick senior team and they had a good year. It all adds up to creating experienced players.”

And for the former Sixmilebridge and Clare great, it was very special: “It’s a huge relief to win your first championship. You are always worried with a bunch of kids like this how they would cope with a final occasion, especially against Ahane. But, once they learned to battle it out we’d always be confident.” And for veteran forward Damien Quigley, brought on in the last minute, it was special after “20 years of trying and knocking on doors”.

Ahane, for whom Niall Moran was heavily involved, were first to score with two points inside the opening four minutes. But, within two minutes, scores were to level for the only time after a point from the outstanding Shane Dowling. Na Piarsaigh settled down to make progress in key areas, notably around midfield and in the full-forward line and they had gone two points clear before Kevin Downes goaled after blocking an attempted clearance by keeper Tadhg Flynn. That gave them the confidence they needed to exert the dominance Ahane could not cope with. They were heavily reliant on Niall Moran both for leadership and scores, with older brother Ollie not involved until he moved outfield late in the half.

In contrast, Dowling was hugely influential for the winners up front, ably supported by Kevin Downes, while David Breen was very effective. Each side missed goal chances – Robert Sheehan for Na Piarsaigh dropped a ball when he was about to pass and Niall Moran when he tried from 21 yards free – before Ahane were out of luck in the 24th minute. Richard Ryan’s low shot came back off the butt of the upright and it saw Na Piarsaigh lead 1-11 to 0-7 at the break. The third quarter was more competitive, with Ahane benefitting from a series of changes and hit four scores between the 39th and 46th minutes to leave only five points between the sides. However, inanother five minutes, David Breen won a penalty which Dowling converted to ensure a famous victory.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: S Dowling 1-10 (1-7fs), K Downes 1-1, P Gleeson, D Breen, A Breen 0-2 each, S O’Neill 0-1.

Scorers for Ahane: N Moran 0-5 (3fs), J Meskell, S Meade 0-2 each, F Ahern, O Moran, D Morrissey, P O’Connor 0-1 each.

NA PIARSAIGH: P Kennedy; A Hennessy, K Breen, K Bermingham (capt.); A Dempsey, J O’Brien, B Hartnett; C King, P Gleeson; R Sheehan, D Breen, S O’Neill; S Dowling, K Downes, K Ryan.

Subs: A. Breen for Sheehan (ht), D Lynch for Dempsey (33), D Quigley for Ryan (60), K Kennedy for Gleeson (63).

AHANE: T Flynn; A Doherty, D Madden, J Doheny; C O’Reilly, M Carr, P Treacy; J Meskell, F Ahern; D Morrissey, N Mora, D Laing; B Healy, O Moran (capt.), R Ryan.

Subs: S Madden for Healy (16), M Foley for D Madden (31), P O’Connor for Meskell (inj. 36), S O’Connor for Laing (38), C Ryan for Doheny (46).

Referee: Shane Hourigan (Rathkeale)