Na Piarsaigh show no mercy to Clonoulty-Rossmore to send out message of intent
Na Piarsaigh 3-22 Clonoulty-Rossmore0-13
Routine business in the Gaelic Grounds saw Na Piarsaigh lay down a firm statement of intent that they hope will carry for the next few months.
Their conquerors last March, Cuala, may be back in port for the winter but the Limerick champions are clearly bracing themselves for the choppy seas ahead once more.
From the early stages it was quite evident that this was going to be a rout. Clonoulty-Rossmore won their first Tipperary senior title since 1997 and that was as much as they would have expected from the campaign.
That said, you would always expect a lot more from Tipperary champions, irrespective of identity or recent record, and if Liam Sheedy was watching he won't have felt any way emboldened by it in his search for new talent.
Na Piarsaigh think differently. They had never lost in 11 previous Munster Championship outings, franking each of their four previous Limerick wins with provincial success. This campaign, even allowing for past rivalry with Ballygunner, looks like it will be no different.
Burns They operated at a different level here, physically and mentally. March 17 is still some distance away but the memory of March 17 past and the subsequent replay still burns deep, it seems.
Their movement and physical power stood out in just about every position with little sign of sagging energy levels compounded by the involvement of some of their players in Limerick's successful summer campaign.
"I would say if you step back, there should be a lot of physical and mental fatigue but at this point in time there isn't any of it. We just need to hang in there for two more weeks," said manager Paul Beary.
It invited the question to Beary as to where, after so much success and challenging campaigns, the drive comes from. "They are high performers and they are learning to perform on the high stage and bring out the best of themselves, that's the focal point but they are very self-driven bunch, self-motivated.
"Obviously, it was difficult for us with the county final last week and everything but we had a good chat on Monday and we had to reset. We defended one title last weekend and it's all about defending the titles that we have."
One of those who missed Limerick's campaign, Ronan Lynch, having spent a summer in the US, was prominent as Na Piarsaigh laid down a platform and he earned praise from Beary afterwards.
"Ronan was away for the summer and I think it did him the wealth of good. He's showing fantastic form, he's one of the most skilful players to watch in training," said Beary.
But their threats came from everywhere, the aerial supremacy of players like captain Will O'Donoghue, Kevin Downes, Conor Boylan and Shane Dowling really noticeable. Invariably, when they were reached, the ball stuck.
On the ground, corner-forwards Peter Casey and Adrian Breen tortured Clonoulty-Rossmore. Casey finished with 2-2 before being withdrawn but was involved in so much more, Breen nabbed six points and created a goal for Kevin Downes. Keeping tabs on them was a nightmare as they crisscrossed the field with lightning raids.
Even when Clonoulty-Rossmore did get territory they found Mike Casey and Kieran Kennedy in no mood to yield while O'Donoghue's gatekeeper instincts at the heart of their defence surfaced repeatedly when Declan O'Dwyer drove puck-outs in his direction.
At one stage early in the second half they could barely get a shot away, such was the persistence and quality of the Na Piarsaigh blocking.
Beary felt O'Donoghue was an obvious choice for the captain's armband this year. "When I took over the team and I would have seen the leadership qualities that he has to offer. But they all drive each other, there is no let up here," added Beary. The only downside for Na Piarsaigh were the injuries sustained by Dowling and Lynch, both players replaced with hand and head injuries respectively.
Clonoulty-Rossmore resistance came chiefly from Timmy Hammersley who hit eight points (five frees) and Paudie White before Thomas Butler's arrival as a substitute came them added physical power to at least compete.
But there were always goals in Na Piarsaigh and eventually they came. An O'Donoghue catch from a puck-out was the source with Breen and Downes combining on 25 minutes for a 1-11 to 0-4 lead.
Downes then turned provider for Casey before half-time and with a 2-13 to 0-5 lead, it was about damage limitation for the Tipp champions.
Na Piarsaigh added 1-4 in the opening five minutes after the restart and it looked really bleak but the withdrawal of key players took something from Na Piarsaigh and from there until the conclusion almost half-an-hour later, they were outscored by 0-8 to 0-5. w A minute's silence was observed for Limerick great Leonard Enright and former Clonoulty-Rossmore player John Kennedy before the game.