ON Saturday August 21, 2016 Na Piarsaigh manager Shane O’Neill sat in the rack in Fitzgerald Park Kilmallock because his side were dumped from the Limerick SHC almost five months to the day since their historical All Ireland club SHC title.
O’Neill and his management staff might have taken the easy route to depart but opted to stay for a fourth effort.
Nine almost months later, O’Neill, selector Kieran Bermingham, trainer Alan Cunningham and strength and conditioning trainer Darragh Droog set from the road to Croker.
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Ten championship matches later and Na Piarsaigh have won their fourth Limerick and Munster club names in seven years.
And, this Saturday (3.45) the Caherdavin GAA club seem in their next All Ireland final in 3 years.
Only the 20th club to reach at the March 17 club showpiece for another time and now rush to join an elite list when just 10 clubs that have won two names or more.
The Tommy Moore Cup has been won by 26 different clubs together with Ballyhale Shamrocks leading the way with six wins.
Just five times comes with an All-Ireland club final been contested by former winners of the championship — in 1998 if Birr conquered Sarsfields, in 2000 when Athenry watched St Joseph’s, in 2005 when James Stephens overturned Athenry, in 2008 if Portumna overcame Birr and in 2010 when Ballyhale bettered Portumna.
However, this St Patricks day is the first time both immediate prior winners of the title take each other on in the decider.
The bookies make the guys from the north side of Limerick city the slightest of favourites but with Ireland U-21 winning duo Tommy Grimes and Conor Boylan suspended following semi final red cards, so the strength in depth of the panel will be tested. Shane Dowling is expected to enter the forward line with Kieran Kennedy, Gordan Browne and Kevin Ryan all options to fulfill another function.
Both floating players have been newcomers to the Na Piarsaigh line-up this year so it therefore appears that 13 of their 2016 All Ireland Final team will once more start.
The Cathall King captained facet have used 23 different players on this trip to Croke Park — selecting up Daly and O’Neill Cup win enroute.
Saturday, live on TG4, claims to be the greatest challenge confronted by Na Piarsaigh since their break through year of 2011 and their 11 game unbeaten run in the Munster championship game.
Produced by Galway’s Mattie Kenny, Cuala finished a 21-year wait to get a Dublin senior title in 2015. That was the beginning of these stringing together three sequential county names. They’ve added back-to-back Leinster names and are now chasing back-to-back All Irelands — final attained by Portumna in 2008-09.
The guys in white and red are captained by Paul Schutte, along with his brother Mark also included.