IT STARTED OUT against Ballygunner back in 2011 and ultimately it was the same opponents that brought the run to an end seven years later.

Na Piarsaigh took their first steps on the Munster senior club hurling circuit in November 2011, winning a semi-final tie by 3-9 to 0-12 against Ballygunner in Walsh Park.

That set in motion an odyssey for the Limerick club that featured four unbeaten campaigns in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. 

Last month’s semi-final victory over Clonoulty-Rossmore presented them with the chance to grasp the title for the fifth time yesterday in Thurles but their 13th outing in Munster saw them sustain a loss for the first occasion.

A seasoned team have been pushing hard for a while and after being pipped in the All-Ireland decider in March, 2018 ended on a hollow note.

“I wouldn’t have thought going into the game (it was a problem), there was a lot of energy there,” reflected manager Paul Beary.

“We knew it was going to be played to a finish today and we knew a big push was needed. But they’ve been on the receiving end so many times we knew it was going to be a massive battle. Maybe it was one battle too many.

“I looked at their game with Ballyea and it was a serious dogfight. I felt it was going to catch up with us at some stage but I hoped it wouldn’t be today.

“We also went straight from the county final into the Munster club, when normally we have a bit of a break. But that said, we looked good after ten or twelve minutes.

“We had a lot of possession, we were in a rhythm, but we just didn’t punish them when we got the balls going in. We just didn’t reflect that on the scoreboard.”

The scoring statistic was a salient one to point to. Na Piarsaigh looked like they had hit their stride early in this decider in totting up 1-4 on the board inside nine minutes but finished the game with 2-8.

That was a slump from their normal high standards. It was the joint lowest total Na Piarsaigh had recorded in a Munster tie. They have crossed the 20-point mark nine times in Munster action, reaching 14 was illustrative of a problem they faced.

“It’s very hard to figure out,” admitted Beary.

“We got off to a great start, but we only scored 1-4 between that and the end of the match. It just didn’t really happen. We got balls in to the inside forward line but we just didn’t penetrate the way we have done this season.

“They played it very smartly in terms of sweeping up behind and picking up the breaks, better than we did, but when we were chasing the game it probably made their game plan that bit easier.

“Thereafter we had to look for goals, which wouldn’t be our normal policy, we’d normally keep on tapping over points so that was a different game to what we’re used to. Shane was unlucky as well, there was a great save from their keeper.”

Na Piarsaigh have had the upper hand in outings against Ballygunner but after falling the wrong of the result, Beary paid tribute to their conquerors.

“Fair dues to Ballygunner. In fairness it was a very dogged Ballygunner team, they showed huge desire, huge work rate, they scrapped for every ball and hats off to them, we fully congratulate them on their victory.

“It’s been a long year for Na Piarsaigh, and for the lads involved with Limerick, but we’ll be back.”

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