Stack demands improvement as Na Piarsaigh deny Passage in thriller
Na Piarsaigh 0-20 Passage 3-9
Na Piarsaigh from Limerick advanced to their second Munster club hurling final in three years after seeing off Passage (Waterford) by two points in a thrilling encounter at the Gaelic Grounds.
Despite being outscored by on the goal count by three to none, the Limerick county champions put on an excellent attacking display and Passage had their goalkeeper Eddie Lynch to thank for keeping them in the game for so long as he pulled off four brilliant saves.
Na Piarsaigh were the better side throughout, but, to their credit, Passage fought back from five points down midway through the second half to make it a nervy ending.
Na Piarsaigh manager Sean Stack paid credit to the Passage's valiant performance.
"When you play in your first county championship, you have no inhibitions whatsoever and fellas play above themselves," he said.
"They played really well and showed great character. The fear of losing wasn't there. They were a credit to their parish and their club. It was a toss-up of a match."
Stack admitted that his side's concession of three goals was disappointing and is something that will have to be looked at.
"We got way more scores than them – but leaking the three goals again is disappointing. We really have to examine where they came from," he said. "We have that hunger and anger in us now that we didn't perform, but you're glad to win those type of battles."
Passage opened up an early three-point lead after Owen Connors' long-range shot was dropped into the net by goalkeeper Padraic Kennedy.
Na Piarsaigh hit back with a couple of scores from Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes. Downes was then put through one-on-one, but Lynch pulled off a terrific point-blank save before the ball was sent down the other end of the pitch for Eoin Kelly to score his first point of the game. A Dowling free drew the sides level.
Connors slotted over two long-range frees, but Na Piarsaigh's forwards were beginning to find space in the final third, with Pat Gleeson firing over a couple of well-worked scores.
Passage were awarded a penalty before the break when Kelly was adjudged to have been pulled back. He then buried the ball into the back of the net to leave his side trailing by a single point at half-time, 0-11 to 2-4.
Passage were awarded their second penalty five minutes after the restart, but this time Kelly was denied by Kevin Ryan. That miss sparked Na Piarsaigh into life and four scores without reply put them into a five-point lead.
The Waterford side went 24 minutes without a score, but were back on the board after Killian Fitzgerald's point. John Whitty was shifted from midfield into the full-forward line for the second half and he rifled the ball beyond Kennedy for his side's third goal.
Na Piarsaigh remained composed despite being pegged back to level scores, as Dowling brought a sense of calmness to proceedings with a couple of fine individual points. But back came Passage again and points from Connors and Fitzgerald made it all square with four minutes left.
A super pass from Dowling allowed Alan Dempsey to put his side back into the lead before Downes wrapped up the win in injury-time with an excellent point from a tight angle.
Na Piarsaigh now face the winners of Sixmilebridge's clash with Midleton in the Munster final on October 24.
Scorers – Na Piarsaigh: K Downes 0-6, S Dowling 0-5 (3fs), A Breen, P Gleeson 0-3 each, W O'Donoghue, A Dempsey, K Kennedy 0-1 each. Passage: O Connors 1-4, E Kelly 1-1, J Whitty 1-0, C Fitzgerald 0-2, T Connors, J McClean 0-1 each.
Na Piarsaigh – P Kennedy; N Buckley, C King, M Casey; A Dempsey, D Breen, J O'Brien (c); S Dowling, W O'Donoghue; K Kennedy, K Downes, D Dempsey; K Ryan, P Gleeson, A Breen. Subs: B Hartnett for J O'Brien (52), J Madden for K Kennedy (52), A Hennessy for P Gleeson (59).
Passage – E Lynch; J Roche, M Wyse, J Upton; P Walsh, S Mason, M Baldwin; K Fitzgerald, J Whitty; O Connors, C Carey, T Connors; R Walsh, E Kelly (c), S Hogan. Sub: K McClean for R Walsh (46).
REF – C Lyons (Cork).