Downes restores Na Piarsaigh as Limerick leaders
Na Piarsaigh 1-22 Patrickswell 4-12
On the final blast of the whistle, a strange silence fell over the Gaelic Grounds.
The clock on the scoreboard showed there were still a few seconds of normal time to play but it had been started late and a minute of injury-time had been played. After a brief spell of confusion, Na Piarsaigh players on the field erupted. They had been crowned champions for the third time in their history.
At one stage it looked unlikely. Just after half-time, the goal threat Patrickswell carried became glaringly obvious.
Twice full-forward Kevin O'Brien was pulled down in the area, and twice All-Ireland-winning U-21 captain Diarmaid Byrnes strode forward to bang home the penalties. The ability to generate goals that had brought them so far in the Limerick championship looked like it might carry them all the way.
On 45 minutes, they were five points to the good and when the excellent Patrickswell goalkeeper Brian Murray pulled off his third big save of the game, it looked like they had done enough.
But Na Piarsaigh are an experienced side and they kept going. Peter Casey got the ball rolling with a point while Kevin Downes - who would be named man of the match afterwards - stepped up.
Downes grabbed a point of his own and set up Will O'Donoghue for the equalising point. The Limerick forward also won the decisive free that Shane Dowling converted to round off the day's action and confirm the city club's third title since they made the breakthrough in 2011. Downes hit 1-5 over the course of the hour.
"Kevin has spent more time on the physio's table this year so the one thing he had is that he was fresh!" Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O'Neill smiled afterwards.
The first quarter of an hour was a tepid affair with the scores coming easier to a Na Piarsaigh side who were contesting their fifth final in seven years.
And when Downes swept the ball home in the 16th minute to put his side five points to the good, it seemed to reflect their superiority to that point.
However, that strike seemed to spark Patrickswell into life. Lar Considine's point attempt came off the post and Kevin O'Brien reacted quickest to goal with a clever finish.
Na Piarsaigh took control again and rattled off three points inside two minutes to cancel that strike but Ciaran Carey's side were troubling Na Piarsaigh with their pace and ball-carrying ability.
Thomas O'Brien got clear of the cover and his shot when his brother Kevin was unmarked inside was well saved by Podge Kennedy. However, he got enough on the rebound to see the ball dribble over the line.
The pace of the game dropped a little from there with Downes and 'Well full-back Barry Foley playing out an intriguing personal duel. Patrickswell had the ball in the net again only for play to be called back for a free. Fittingly, Downes bagged the last score of the half to leave the game nicely poised at 1-12 to 2-7 in favour of Na Piarsaigh at half-time.
After that came Patrickswell's goal rush in the first half that seemed to put them in the driving seat but in the final quarter they could manage only two points while Na Piarsaigh found their range eight times. Manager O'Neill never doubted that his side would dig out a result when it came to the telling moments.
"There were soft goals with the couple of penalties," he reflected.
"The character of the guys has been questioned but we never doubted their character. We asked them to show that today and they definitely did."
Scorers - Na Piarsaigh: K Downes 1-5, S Dowling 0-6 (4fs), P Casey, K Ryan 0-3 each, A Dempsey 0-2, W O'Donoghue, C King, D Dempsey 0-1 each.
Patrickswell: D Byrnes 2-2 (2-0 pens, 2fs), T O'Brien 1-1, K O'Brien 1-0, J Kelleher 0-3 (3f), C Lynch, L Considine 0-2 each, S O'Brien, A Gillane 0-1 each.
Na Piarsaigh - P Kennedy; M Casey, K Breen, K Kennedy; M Foley, C King, R Lynch; A Dempsey, W O'Donoghue; S Dowling, D Dempsey, K Ryan; A Breen, K Downes P Casey. Subs: N Buckley for K Breen (37), D Breen for A Breen, P Gleeson for K Ryan (both 45).
Patrickswell - B Murray; K Lynch, B Foley, J Carrig; M Carmody, D Byrnes, N Foley; S O'Brien, J Kelleher; A Gillane, C Lynch, A Carroll; T O'Brien, K O'Brien, L Considine. Subs: P Harty for Gillane, T Sheehan for Carroll (both 52).
Ref - M Sexton