Breen seals win for Na Piarsaigh
Limerick SHC final: Na Piarsaigh 1-22 Kilmallock 2-14
The symmetry of Na Piarsaigh's relationship with this competition continued at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, where they used their greater physical power and athleticism to ease to a fourth title in seven years.
Since winning for the first time in 2011 they have dipped every second year and then reclaimed the title, which has been the preserve of just three clubs in this decade.
One of those other clubs, Kilmallock, had also won the Daly Cup three times since 2010 prior to this final, but could do little to prevent their rivals edging ahead in imperious fashion.
The scoreline doesn't do justice to just how dominant the Caherdavin side were. Their 2016 All-Ireland club final performance apart, they might credit this as the best they have been.
While the reduction of their lead from 13 points in the 52nd minute to just five at the end might be a concern - and was a repeat of something similar against Doon in the semi-final - there was no doubt that when they opened up and went for it they looked a most impressive side.
Limerick's county team may be in the slipstream of four other counties in Munster at present, but that doesn't reflect the competitiveness of their club hurling championship.
On this evidence, Na Piarsaigh look like they are moving ahead, buoyed by six successive U-21 titles that is fuelling rising standards at all levels.
Adrian Breen led superbly in attack, clipping over six points from a variety of angles, while Kevin Downes and David Breen provided a strong and resourceful central spine.
They could even afford less conspicuous efforts from Peter Casey and Ronan Lynch and still win comfortably.
The critical periods came either side of half-time.
Kilmallock were hanging in and were just 0-8 to 0-6 in arrears when a protracted melee broke out on the covered stand side involving up to 20 players. When order was restored, referee Donnacha O'Callaghan produced just one yellow card, to Na Piarsaigh captain Cathal King.
The upshot was a more invigorated Na Piarsaigh, evident in the way midfielder William O'Donoghue took contact to win the next free, which Shane Dowling put over for a 0-9 to 0-6 lead.
Dowling contributed five first-half frees and was a dominant figure around the middle until he twisted a knee early in the second-half and was eventually forced off.
However, they took a commanding 0-14 to 0-7 lead in at the break and then built on that with the first three points on the restart to put them out of sight.
Kilmallock got to within seven points before David Dempsey struck for Na Piarsaigh's only goal, courtesy of yet another booming clearance from the impressive Niall Buckley in the 47th minute.
With the margin at 13 points, Na Piarsaigh had the finish line in sight and that allowed Kilmallock to make gains with goals from Jake and Graeme Mulcahy. But it was too little too late.
Afterwards Dowling admitted it was their best display in Limerick since they became a dominant force.
"We hurled as well as we have all year for a long period of time. We didn't give them a chance," he said.
"I just said at half-time 'could we make it easy for ourselves for once in our lives?' In Limerick we always seem to leave teams back into it and it was great to be able to enjoy the last few minutes. On the day we were definitely the better side.
"We know that if we can put our talent with our work-rate, hopefully it can get us places."
Dowling paid tribute to club treasurer Liam Kennedy, father of goalkeeper Podge, who passed away this year.
"To see the family crying there after the whistle, he was the heart of everything that was going on and it's great that in a year that he passed on that we can bring the Daly Cup home to the clubhouse."
Manager Shane O'Neill feels the inability to win back-to-back titles is down to the competitiveness of the championship.
"It's because they're bloody hard to win and it's the same for Kilmallock," he said. "The 'Well (Patrickswell) won it last year and couldn't get back to the final. It's really difficult with four or five really good teams in Limerick at any particular time. County finals are there to be respected and I think the boys showed that today."
Na Piarsaigh now play the Cork champions in a Munster semi-final in three weeks.
Na Piarsaigh: A Breen 0-6, D Dempsey 1-2; S Dowling 0-5 (5fs), K Downes 0-3, R Lynch 0-2 (1f), T Grimes, A Dempsey, D Breen, P Casey all 0-1 each.
Kilmallock: G Mulcahy 1-4, J Mulcahy 1-1, K O'Donnell 0-3, E Ryan 0-2 (2fs), G O'Mahony, R Hanley, M Houlihan (f), P O'Brien all 0-1 each.
Na Piarsaigh: P Kennedy; J Boylan, M Casey, N Buckley; T Grimes, C King, A Dempsey; S Dowling, W O'Donoghue; R Lynch, D Breen, D Dempsey; P Casey, K Downes, A Breen. Subs: G Brown for Dowling inj (43), C Boylan for D Breen; M Foley for O'Donoghue, J O'Brien for Boylan (62).
Kilmallock: B Hennessy; L Hurley, M O'Loughlin, A Costelloe; D Joy, Philip O'Loughlin, Paddy O'Loughlin; J Mulcahy, K O'Donnell; P O'Brien, R Hanley, G O'Mahony; M Houlihan, E Ryan, G Mulcahy. Subs: O O'Reilly for Ryan (h-t), D Woulfe for Houlihan (53).
Ref - Donnacha O'Callaghan