Downes leads the fightback as Na Piarsaigh battle to semi-final
Na Piarsaigh 3-11 Sixmilebridge 1-15
An impressive second-half performance from Na Piarsaigh, overhauling a nine-point half-time deficit, saw them defeat hosts Sixmilebridge by two in the quarter-final of the Munster Club senior hurling championship, yesterday.
The Limerick champions returned to the fray after the break in determined fashion and two goals inside 10 minutes helped them on their way to a deserved victory.
The Sean O'Neill-managed outfit never panicked despite the big lead that the Bridge enjoyed at the end of the opening half hour.
In that first half, the home side took full advantage of a stiff breeze at their backs and fully deserved their 1-12 to 1-3 interval lead.
The opening score of the game fell to Sixmilebridge inside a minute, when corner-forward Brian Corry pointed from play. Moments later, Na Piarsaigh goalkeeper Podge Kennedy had to be vigilant as he made a fine save from Alex Morey.
Veteran Niall Gilligan made it 0-2 to 0-0 by the sixth minute from a free before the Limerick champions were in for their opening score, a goal. David Dempsey split the Bridge defence and his shot was flicked to the net by a quick-thinking Adrian Breen.
Sixmilebridge rallied with two frees by Gilligan as they took control of the half. After 20 minutes Shane Golden made a good run and handpassed to Cathal Malone who rattled Kennedy's net, making it 1-6 to 1-1. As the half progressed the home team appeared to be first to almost every ball and as the half-time whistle sounded, most in the crowd of 2,177 were anticipating a Sixmilebridge win.
But this tie was a game of two halves, with Na Piarsaigh upping the ante after the break. Kevin Downes had a goal and a point inside three minutes of the re-start to reduce the deficit. On 40 minutes, Downes superbly caught a puck-out and passed to Peter Casey who shot to the roof of the net, making it a three-point game, 1-14 to 3-5. A huge Ronan Lynch free from over a hundred meters levelled matters in the 52nd minute as Na Piarsaigh took control.
Adrian Breen gave them the lead with a well-taken point and was almost in for a goal on 55 minutes but for a save by Bridge goalie Derek Fahy, parrying it out for a '65. Dowling landed the resultant shot, putting two between them.
The Bridge did get a 20-metre free in injury time but Gilligan's shot was saved on the line by Shane Dowling.
Scorers - Na Piarsaigh: A Breen 1-2, S Dowling 0-5 (3 f, 1 '65), K Downes 1-1, P Casey 1-0, D Dempsey, R Lynch (f), K Ryan 0-1 each. Sixmilebridge: N Gilligan 0-7 (5f), C Malone 1-1, A Morey, B Corry 0-2 each; B Carey, C Deasy, S Golden, 0-1 each.
Na Piarsaigh - P Kennedy; M Casey, C King (capt), K Breen; M Foley, R Lynch, K Kennedy; A Dempsey, W O'Donoghue; P Casey, K Downes, A Breen; S Dowling, D Dempsey, K Ryan. Sub: P Gleeson for Ryan (58).
Sixmilebridge - D Fahy; B Fitzpatrick, A Quilligan, S Morey; N Purcell, C Morey (capt), P Fitzpatrick; J Shanahan, B Carey; C Malone, N Gilligan, C Deasy; A Morey, S Golden, B Corry. Subs: A Mulready for Corry (inj, 21), D Morey for A Morey (47), P Sheehan for Deasy (47), K Lynch for Malone (inj, 51), T Keogh for Purcell (56).
Ref - C McAllister (Cork)
Munster club SHC quarter-final