Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) 3-15 Slaughtneil (Derry) 3-8
Na Piarsaigh remain on course for 2 AIB All-Ireland club SHC title successes in three seasons after a thrilling rollercoaster recovery triumph courageous Slaughtneil at Parnell Park, writes Paul Keane.
Shane O’Neill’s side, superbly defeated here by Loughgiel Shamrocks from the semi-finals six years back, trailed the back to back Ulster winners by three at half-time.
They were subsequently reduced to 13 players when goalscorer Conor Boylan and shield Tommy Grimes were both dismissed within minutes of the restart to get different dramatic offences.
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Nevertheless, they conjured their very best form out there and second-half targets from Limerick duo Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling assisted seal a surprisingly comfortable win in the long run.
Photo from Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ronan Lynch, a second county man, high scored with 14 points, 11 from placed balls, at a five-star display and won the Man of the Match award, marginally beating full-back Mike Casey to the gong.
Na Piarsaigh advance now to the next month’s All-Ireland decider at Parnell Park and will play holders Cuala or Liam Mellows.
Slaughtneil, Ulster senior club winners at both codes, arrived at the Donneycarney venue armed forces with a outspoken support foundation who roared in approval since they controlled the first-half.
Captain Christopher McKaigue started the scoring after two seconds and, save for a few periods when the sides were flat, Slaughtneil stayed in rod for the most part.
Cormac O’Doherty fired two points prior to renovating a 16th minute goal for Slaughtneil out of a punishment that put clear daylight between the groups.
The influential Brendan Rodgers has been hauled down from full-back Casey and O’Doherty slammed the consequent punishment to the roof of the net.
Boylan responded using a Na Piarsaigh goal six minutes later when he took home under pressure in the left, levelling it at 1-4 apiece.
However, the Slaughtneil answer was emphatic, and indicative in their enthusiastic approach all day, as they reeled off 1-1 from the next 90 minutes.
Meehaul McGrath thundered over a point soon after Boylan’s internet explosion before Rodgers now set up Brian Cassidy to get a goal with a wonderful catch.
Slaughtneil deservedly led by 2-6 to 0-6 at half-time and were making a mockery of the 11-point handicap put on Na Piarsaigh from bookmakers.
Nevertheless, they were remarkably reduced to 13 men by the 35th minute after the dismissals of both goalscorer Boylan and wing-back Grimes, both for dramatic offences.
That left Slaughtneil using the larger numbers but Na Piarsaigh, apparently sparked into life from the declines, stormed apparent on the scoreboard.
Lynch converted a series of frees before Dowling fed Downes to get a 41st minute goal that place Na Piarsaigh 2-11 to 2-6 clear.
Rodgers and Cassidy pulled back Slaughtneil points to reduce the deficit to three but they just scored once again in the game, a consolation Gerald Bradley target with a minute of normal time remaining.
Na Piarsaigh, in contrast, continued to pick off the points and with their defence superb had a powerful platform to remain on top of a defeated Slaughtneil who neglected to attract their two additional players to keep on the game.
Subs: K. Kennedy to get Grimes (24-25, blood); S. Dowling to get A. Breen (h/t); K. Ryan to get D. Breen (55); Kennedy to get D. Dempsey (56); G. Brown to get Downes (60).
Slaughtneil: O. O’Doherty; K. McKaigue, S. Cassidy, P. McNeill; S. McGuigan, C. McKaigue (c), C. McKenna; E. Cassidy, M. McGrath; B. Rodgers, C. O’Doherty, M. McGuigan; G. Bradley, B. Cassidy, C. McAllister.