Sparrow’s Kilmallock clip wings of high-flying Na Piarsaigh

Ryan to fore as underdogs show hunger to set up Sarsfields date

Clares's 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland SHC medallist Ger "Sparrow" O'Loughlin masterminded a shock victory for Kilmallock in yesterday's Limerick senior hurling final.

Na Piarsaigh, 2011 and 2013 winners, were red-hot favourites before throw-in.

But Kilmallock hurled with a far greater hunger and intensity to win a third crown in five seasons, and set up an AIB Munster semi-final clash with Cork kingpins Sarsfields on November 9th.

Kilmallock lost wingback Liam Walsh to a red card before half-time but dug in grimly in the face of a second half wind.


They were 1-9 to 0-5 clear at half-time, with captain Graeme Mulcahy, man of the match Kevin O’Donnell and Gavin O’Mahony all prominent.

Goalkeeper Barry Hennessy played his part too, pulling off a couple of vital saves.

It was a day when star-studded Na Piarsaigh failed to perform and their misery was compounded 10 minutes from time when sub Kevin Ryan was dismissed for drawing across Eoin Ryan.

The Kilmallock forward, scorer of a fine third-minute goal, picked himself up and pointed the resultant free, leaving the winners 1-14 to 0-10 in front. Those crucial moments had the Kilmallock fans in the 2,910 attendance on their feet, joyously chanting: “Come on you boys in green.”

And Kilmallock duly responded to hold firm down the home straight even when they went a man down.

A modest O’Loughlin reflected: “I’ve a knack of probably getting involved with good teams, more than me. But absolutely thrilled for the lads there today. Nobody gave us much of a chance but I thought that if we were there until 8 o’clock, we still would have beaten them.

“We fought tooth and nail and with Liam Walsh being sent off, our backs were really to the wall but they manfully stood toe to toe with them and I thought we thoroughly deserved it.”

O’Loughlin had no complaints with the red card for Walsh, which will rule the wingback out of the Sarsfields game.

He said: "Kevin Downes fouled Liam blatantly – it was a yellow card and Liam retaliated. Unfortunately if you do that, you're going to get sent off so it was a red card. He's a huge loss to us. That's in the heat of the moment – he's a player that concentrates on the ball."

Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neill conceded: “The better team won – they showed a greater desire to win it. They thoroughly deserved their win – I thought they were excellent and worked really hard from the very word go. They set out their stall early and stuck to it.”

Remarkably, Na Piarsaigh beat Kilmallock by 12 points in first round of the Limerick championship in May – and by a point in last year’s county semi-final.