All-Ireland Club SHC final: history makers Na Piarsaigh crush Cushendall

March 17, 2016

Na Piarsaigh's David Dempsey and Martin Burke of Ruairí Óg Cushendall

Na Piarsaigh are All-Ireland club senior hurling champions after beating Cushendall by 2-25 to 2-14 in the sunshine at Croke Park this afternoon.

The victors were a class apart as they became the first Limerick club to capture the coveted Tommy Moore Cup.

Shane O'Neill's all-conquering charges bossed the first half, with goals from Man of the Match Adrian Breen (1-4) and Kevin Downes in the first and 26th minutes respectively propelling them into an unassailable 2-12 to 0-6 interval lead.

The Ulster champions started as selected, while their Munster counterparts made one late change to their starting XV - an inspired one with goalscorer Breen replacing Kevin Ryan at left half forward. Incredibly, the No.24 swept the sliothar into the bottom left corner of the Cushendall net inside 30 seconds! Just the start required!

Ruairi Og replied quickly with points from midfielder Alec Delargy and centre forward Neil McManus (free) but Breen - posted on the edge of the square - fired over a point at the Davin Stand end to make it 1-1 to 0-2 after four minutes.

Shane Dowling stretched the gap with a trio of points - a sweet strike off his left side from 45 metres followed by a couple of routine frees from central positions. David Breen flashed a Na Piarsaigh goal effort to the right of the post and wide before Shane McNaughton reduced the arrears to four on 13 minutes.

While McManus uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances from placed balls, there were no such difficulties for Dowling as he drilled over his fourth followed by overs from Peter Casey, Alan Dempsey and David Breen as daylight appeared between the teams with only 17 minutes played: 1-8 to 0-3.

Play was held up following a clash of heads between McManus and Ronan Lynch, with the Cushendall talisman having to leave the action momentarily due to a nasty gash on his chin. Dowling's free on 23 minutes left nine between the teams after Sean McAfee's opportunist strike at the other end drifted wide.

Midfielder Dempsey speared over a nonchalant point from the right wing and Downes - who had been anonymous up until that point - put the match well and truly to bed when he stroked the ball to the corner of the net five minutes from the short whistle: 2-10 to 0-3.

The northerners rallied with points from McNaughton, Conor Carson and McManus (free) but injury-time efforts from Casey and Downes left twelve between the sides at the break.

McManus registered the first score of the second half from a free and pulled back another one after Adrian Breen had clipped over the Limerick kingpins' 13th point. A long-range Lynch free and points from Dowling, David Breen and Adrian Breen had the margin out to a massive 15 points after 36 minutes.

Casey shortened his grip and floated another one over a minute later but Cushendall hit back with a goal on 38 minutes when McNaughton dropped in a free and McManus doubled the sliothar to the net with a perfectly-timed overhead strike. After McManus smashed over a free ten minutes into the second half, it was still double scores: 2-18 to 1-9.

McManus (free) cancelled out Alan Dempsey's inspirational long-distance score from beneath the Hogan Stand and Adrian Breen drove a real dagger into Cushendall hearts when he smacked over a terrific solo point from the middle of the pitch after McManus and veteran substitute Karl McKeegan both had brief sniffs of goal - 2-20 to 1-10 with three-quarters of the game played.

Downes and Alan Dempsey pointed for the winners either side of an Eoghan Campbell strike and Downes pushed the gap back out to 15 points with eight minutes remaining. Shane McNaughton did well to claim his third score but NAP midfielder Will O'Donoghue was on hand to poke over his side's 24th point.

McNaughton showed his quality with another consolation point and he then drifted in the delivery which led to McKeegan first-timing home Ruairi Og's second major two minutes from time. Eoin Gillan denied Man of the Match Breen his second three-pointer with a terrific save.

McManus mustered another consolation score for the Antrim champions and Gillan again thwarted Breen deep into stoppage time before substitute Pat Gleeson closed the scoring from a late, late '65' on a day that Na Piarsaigh players, mentors, officials and supporters will never forget.

An outstanding display on the biggest stage of all. There was a deceptive chill in the air on Jones Road, but nobody from Limerick felt it.

Na Piarsaigh - P Kennedy; M Casey, K Breen, K Kennedy; M Foley, C King, R Lynch (0-1f); A Dempsey (0-4), W O'Donoghue (0-1); S Dowling (0-7, 4f, 1'65), D Breen (0-2), D Dempsey; K Downes (1-2), A Breen (1-4), P Casey (0-3). Subs: K Ryan for D Breen, P Gleeson (0-1'65) for W O'Donoghue.

Cushendall - E Gillan; A Graffin, M Burke, R McCambridge; D Kearney, E Campbell (0-1), S Delargy; S McNaughton (0-4), A Delargy (0-1); C Carson (0-1), N McManus (1-7, 0-7f), D McNaughton; C McNaughton, S McAfee, P McGill. Subs: P Burke for S Delargy, K McKeegan (1-0) for D McNaughton, A McNaughton for C McNaughton, E McKillop for A Graffin.

Referee - D Kirwan.

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