Ballygunner 0-16 Na Piarsaigh 1-9
Na Piarsaigh’s season came to an end following a four-point defeat to Waterford’s Ballygunner in the Munster SHC semi-final at the TUS Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
Last year’s encounter between the two sides was enthralling, but this edition was far from it.
The Limerick champions only managed 1-2 from play in the entire match, a low tally for a hurling game.
A fast-opening minute of the match ensued as Gunners’ Pauric Mahony pointed a free, followed up instantly by a Will Henn point for Nap.
Mahony and Na Piarsaigh’s Ronan Lynch traded frees to leave it 0-2 apiece with ten minutes on the clock.
The Waterford champions got the next two scores to take a firm lead with Mahony and Ronan Power on target.
Adrian Breen got Nap’s last point from play on 18 minutes before sharpshooter Mahony converted two more frees.
Dessie Hutchinson got Gunner’s last score of the half after good build up play, but Ronan Lynch kept the Limerick victors within reach with three frees, 0-7 to 0-6 Ballygunner led at the short whistle.
A mini scuffle broke out on the half time whistle as Vince Harrington got a shoulder off a Ballygunner player when claiming the ball.
Some may have argued that incident would have revved the game up, but that wasn’t to be.
Na Piarsaigh were still in the game, but Ballygunner showed why they are All Ireland favorites with a blistering start to the second half.
Mahony got his first from play after finding a pocket of space before firing a free over moments later.
Na Piarsaigh scored their only point from the interval up until the 55th minute when Lynch popped over a free, but Ballygunner didn’t let up.
Hutchinson got his second of the day as the gaps started to appear in the Caherdavin side’s defense.
Mahony hit another from open play and two bad puckouts from goalkeeper Shane Dowling led to Power and Harry Ruddle splitting the posts.
With 12 minutes to go, Nap trailed 0-13 to 0-7 and a comeback seemed unlikely.
Mahony was again to the fore and got 0-2 instantly to increase the margin to eight.
To Nap’s credit though, they rallied even if the scoreboard looked grim.
Lynch scored another two frees to take his tally to 0-7 before a twinkle of hope occurred.
A long ball into the square caused havoc in the Ballygunner defense and only a touch was needed from a Na Piarsaigh forward.
Adrian Breen was alert and obliged, pulling on the sliotar which sailed past Stephen O’Keeffe, 0-15 to 1-9 going into stoppage time.
The comeback was almost complete too.
David Dempsey got on the end of another dropping ball but the quick reactions from O’Keeffe denied him.
Ballygunner’s Mahony, who else, finished off the afternoon’s scoring by slotting over another free.
It was 0-13 last year, 0-11 this year. The Ballygunner forward got his second Man of the Match award in a row against the Limerick champions, a man with serious ability.
Na Piarsaigh will have to go again next year to try for a Limerick SHC three in a row while Ballygunner have a Munster SHC Final date with Clonlara of Clare at the beginning of December.
Ballygunner: Stephen O’Keeffe, Ian Kenny, Barry Coughlan, Tadhg Foley, Shane O’Sullivan, Philip Mahony, Ronan Power, Conor Sheahan, Paddy Leavey, Dessie Hutchinson, Pauric Mahony, Peter Hogan (Billy O’Keeffe 59’), Patrick Fitzgerald (Harry Ruddle 45’), Kevin Mahony, Mikey Mahony.
Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling, Emmett McEvoy, Mike Casey, Cathal King (Wayne Kearns 51’), Mike Foley (John Fitzgerald 48’), Will O’Donoghue, Vince Harrington, Conor Boylan, Ronan Lynch, JJ Carey (Keith Dempsey 43’), Peter Casey, Kevin Downes, Adrian Breen, Will Henn, David Dempsey.