Na Piarsaigh pip Oulart-the-Ballagh to lift semis jinx
Shane O’Neill’s side through to All-Ireland final after Semple Stadium extra-time epic
Na Piarsaigh’s Mike Casey is tackled by Oulart-The Ballagh’s Nicky Kirwan. Photograph: Inpho
Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) 1-22 Oulart-the-Ballagh (Wexford) 0-20 (AET)
Shane O’Neill suffered All-Ireland semi-final heartbreak as a player with Na Piarsaigh in 2012 but now he’s bringing them to Croke Park for a final as manager.
The Limerick and Munster champions, who also fell at the penultimate hurdle in 2014, finally cracked the semi-final code in Thurles on Saturday evening to set up a St Patrick’s Day clash with Ruairi Og Cushendall.
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.
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 had trailed by 0-9 to 1-11.
And Oulart, who reeled off the final four scores of the regulation 60 minutes, 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.
Na Piarsaigh had the lead again for the first time since first assuming through Breen in the 21st minute, after Oulart had roared out of the blocks to lead by three points twice early on.
But the first half was nip and tuck, level four times, before that controversial finish.
In fairness to referee Fergal Horgan, it would have been a difficult infringement by Lynch to spot with the naked eye and the Limerick starlet got the benefit of the doubt.
Oulart put that setback behind them to produce a rousing second half display which took the game into extra-time.
But after using so much energy to get that far, it was pre-match favourites Na Piarsaigh who had the extra kick that proved good enough, as midfielder Will O’Donoghue claimed the man of the match award.
Oulart-The-Ballagh: C O’Leary (0-1f); B Kehoe, K Rossiter, A Roche; K Sheridan, S Murphy (0-1), E Moore (0-2, 1f); D Redmond, M Jacob; T Storey (0-1), D Mythen (0-3), P Murphy; R Jacob, G Sinnott (0-1), N Kirwan (0-10, 8f).
Subs: T Dunne for P Murphy (42), K Nimmo for M Jacob (44), B Dunne (0-1f) 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 (0-1f), C King; A Dempsey (0-4), W O’Donoghue (0-1); S Dowling (0-5, 4f), D Breen (1-2), K Ryan; K Downes (0-4), D Dempsey (0-2), P Casey (0-2).
Sub: A Breen (0-1) for Ryan (38)
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary)