Na Piarsaigh grab late goal to pip 13-man Loughmore-Castleiney
Dempsey’s late goal breaks the heart of gallant Tipperary champions
Na Piarsaigh’s David Dempsey celebrates scoring his side’s third goal of the game against Loughmore-Castleiney. Photograph: Inpho
Na Piarsaigh 3-17 Loughmore Castleiney 2-18
After the final whistle, the Loughmore-Castleiney supporters came out of the stand and gathered on the pitch, there to commiserate and to loudly cheer their players off it.
Well was it earned, too. A higgledy-piggledy old game had only just slipped out of their hands in the dying minutes as sheer weight of numbers eventually told and stamped Na Piarsaigh’s passport for the Munster semi-final.
But the Tipp champions lost not a hair in defeat. They had a man sent off after two minutes. They saw a second walk after 35. Their corner-forward Liam McGrath scored 1-3 but had to be chaired off at the end because he couldn’t walk another step. They faced a stiff wind for the whole of the second half and had to drop the wondrous Noel McGrath back into defence to man the ramparts.
And still, despite it all, they very nearly held out. Gaudy and all as Na Piarsaigh’s numerical advantage had been, the Limerick side didn’t manage to forge a second-half lead until the 59th minute. When full-forward Kevin Ryan drew a stunning save out of Shane Nolan, the break found its way to David Dempsey – the one Na Piarsaigh player who had consistently worked out how to find space all afternoon.
His finish bought Na Piarsaigh a two-point lead just as the hour ticked by, the first time they’d been in front since the 25th minute.
Loughmore-Castleiney had four minutes to make up the deficit but their pockets were turned inside out by that stage. Save for a long-range Noel McGrath free, they had nothing left to give.
“I don’t know what to say to ye,” sighed manager Declan Laffan afterwards. “Devastated I suppose is the best way of putting it. I thought we’d hold on until the end but we let the last goal slip.
“I’m struggling to say anything. We’ll just knuckle down and get on with it because what’s what we’ll do. We’ll move on, we can’t turn back the clock. It’s gone. It’s devastating but it’s gone.”
For Na Piarsaigh, it was an escape they’d never have forgiven themselves for failing to make. After David Bourke’s red card on two minutes, they took an age to get to grips with how best to press home their advantage. They played their extra man in the full-back line, despite the strong wind which meant that Loughmore-Castleiney were able to shoot from distance.
At the very least, they ought to have stitched an extra body onto that of Noel McGrath who was having one of the games of his life. He was the best player at both ends of the field, the game’s top scorer despite spending whole swathes of his afternoon tidying up ball in his own half-back line. He scored the Tipp champions’ first two points and later set Liam McGrath up for their first goal in the 27th minute with a brilliant crossfield pass.