THEY ARE RESOUNDING favourites to pass their All-Ireland semi-final examination now and maintained their unbeaten Munster album last November to collect a fourth provincial title.
And yet there is a feeling of trepidation for Na Piarsaigh as they trek towards Parnell Park that afternoon, the place conjuring up memories of a sad encounter when they ventured into the All-Ireland series.
Back then in 2012 Shane O’Neill was enjoying wing-forward, now in 2018 he is managing about the sideline.
That change six years back against Antrim’s Loughgiel Shamrocks puts them on their guard ahead of today’s meeting Derry’s Slaughtneil.
They dug themselves out of a hole using a late burst of 1-3 producing a draw however after extra-time they’d succumbed to a 0-27 to 2-13 conquer, Liam Watson dazzling for the ultimate winners with a 0-16 personal haul.
We had been beaten by a team that were much superior than people, Loughgiel were far superior.
“I know we ended up having a draw at the end that brought it to extra-time. We were totally annihilated in extra-time.
“They had been undoubtedly the better team, had some really good players and they deserved to win against the All-Ireland that year. We’d some older fellas however enerally we were very young. That was a enormous learning experience.
“2 years later I guess we met Portumna, that were really proficient and bullied us that a small bit to be honest with you. But since then I think we’ve turned the corner. I think the boys learned from being included in those two matches. I think there’so seven or eight from 2012 still in the group and of course and Kieran (Bermingham) online played that day as well. ”
Back in 2016 Na Piarsaigh got the task done on All-Ireland per day afternoon, albeit after a dogfight with Oulart-the-Ballagh of Wexford.
O’Neill reflects about the impressive strides made by a club that were hammered in their first Limerick closing as recently as 2009 and just climbed to the county champion’s podium a couple of years later.
“It’s beyond anything we’d have ever believed we’d be in a position to achieve. You would have been pleased with a county closing initially. You’re taking it one step at a time back in 2011.
“We’re just spoiled now. It merely shows the amount of commitment as well as the standard of participant that’so coming through. They are very exceptionally demanding and self-motivated.
“This was something we had been aware of from when I had been playing there. The players have had to take possession and they have done it within the last few years.
“They had been speaking about an All-Ireland semi-final after winning a Munster final. They just take it what is another obstacle and challenge and the way they deal with this. ”
Their increase in heart level has complemented the rapid advancement of Árdscoil Rís, the local hurling toddlers, at Munster colleges circles.
Young Na Piarsaigh corner-back Jerome Boylan is also a very important cog in that school side. The influx of young players has aided Na Piarsaigh reestablish their group as they embark on a different All-Ireland assault.
“It’s of benefit. Árdscoil get them when they’re 13 years old and we’ve very powerful underage coaching from U6 on, so that they’re well coached when they get to Árdscoil Rís but that I guess what Árdscoil Rís subsequently is give them high profile colleges matches at a top level.
“It exposes them to demanding, aggressive matches and pressurised situations that will clearly be of benefit to them as they come to adult level.
“It took us three distinct campaigns to really get within the semi-final point because the players believed themselves that they didn’t even handle it properly themselves and the direction. Different items were done a couple of years back, trying to do a few different things this year, whether theyrsquo;ll repay now is just another thing.
“It might be very, very unsatisfactory if we weren’t even prepared to continue now on Saturday. Our listing at semi-finals afterward would be one from four that could be very, very bad. ”
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