Na Piarsaigh book All Ireland final spot with thrilling win over Oulart-the Ballagh
Na Piarsaigh 1-22 Oulart-the Ballagh 0-20
NA Piarsaigh came good after extra-time to book their place in a very first AIB All-Ireland senior club hurling final.
Beaten semi-finalists in 2012 and 2014, the Limerick and Munster champions finally cracked the All-Ireland semi-final code to set up a clash with Ruairi Og Cushendall at Croke Park on March 17.
Na Piarsaigh saw off the dogged challenge of semi-final first-timers Oulart-the Ballagh to advance in front of 2,566 spectators at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Nicky Kirwan’s tenth point of the game, and his eighth free, took the game into extra-time, as Oulart clawed level at 0-16 to 1-13.
The Wexford men’s recovery from a five-point second half deficit was admirable, as they trailed by 0-9 to 1-11 early in the second half.
Oulart would have felt a huge degree of satisfaction with that recovery as they were left with a real sense of injustice at half-time in normal time.
Na Piarsaigh led by 1-8 to 0-9 at the end of a closely-contested first half that was level four times but Oulart cried foul in first half stoppage time when David Breen’s controversial goal was allowed to stand. Slow-motion TV replays indicated that Na Piarsaigh centre back Ronan Lynch had fouled the ball before his free dropped short and ended up in Breen’s grasp.
Lynch’s hurl stuck in the ground and connected with the sliotar before he jab-lifted for a second time and struck it goalwards.
Breen pounced 20 metres out before he turned and flashed a low effort past Conor O’Leary for the game’s only goal.
Oulart, playing with the aid of an icy breeze blowing towards the Town End, had stormed 0-3 to 0-0 clear early on and were 0-4 to 0-1 in front before Na Piarsaigh found some rhythm.
They were level through Peter Casey at 0-4 apiece midway through the first half and while Oulart edged a point clear again, Tommy Storey on target, Na Piarsaigh hit three points on the spin to lead by 0-7 to 0-5.
Two Nicky Kirwan frees restored parity for Oulart before Lynch hit back for Na Piarsaigh, and although two quickfire Des Mythen points had Oulart back in front, there was still time left in the first half for controversy.
They managed to put that setback behind them in the second half with a spirited fightback but Na Piarsaigh had the extra kick when it mattered the most, however, to leave Oulart heartbroken and lamenting the crucial goal they conceded.
Scorers — Na Piarsaigh: D Breen 1-2, S Dowling 0-5 (4f), A Dempsey & K Downes 0-4 each, D Dempsey & P Casey 0-2 each, R Lynch (f), W O’Donoghue & A Breen 0-1 each.
Oulart-the-Ballagh: N Kirwan 0-10 (8f), D Mythen 0-3, E Moore 0-2 (1f), C O’Leary (f), S Murphy, G Sinnott, T Storey & B Dunne (f) 0-1 each.
Oulart-the-Ballagh: C O’Leary; B Kehoe, K Rossiter, A Roche; K Sheridan, S Murphy, E Moore; D Redmond, M Jacob; T Storey, D Mythen, P Murphy; R Jacob, G Sinnott, N Kirwan. Subs: T Dunne for P Murphy (42), K Nimmo for M Jacob (44), B Dunne for Redmond (52), D Stamp for T Dunne (58), S Doyle for Sinnott (70), Redmond for Mythen (70), D Nolan for Mythen (72).
NA Piarsaigh: P Kennedy; M Casey, K Breen, K Kennedy; M Foley, R Lynch, C King; A Dempsey, W O’Donoghue; S Dowling, D Breen, K Ryan; K Downes, D Dempsey, P Casey. Sub: A Breen for Ryan (38)
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary)