NA PIARSAIGH suffered semi-final heartbreak on the All-Ireland stage for the second time in three years after going down 1-15 to 1-11 against Portumna in Thurles on Saturday evening.
Sean Stack’s side rallied after a slow start to pull themselves level going into half-time, but the Galway club finished the stronger and left Na Piarsaigh with too much to do, despite a late Shane Dowling goal ensuring a nervy finish for the eventual winners.
Stack said after the Semple Stadium clash that he and his players were “shattered” with the result and, while Portumna had that crucial bit extra, Na Piarsaigh were also left with a genuine grievance over a first half incident.
Portumna’s Joe Canning struck David Dempsey with his hurley in the 22nd minute, but referee James McGrath declined to send the Galway inter-county player off, instead issuing a yellow card.
Portumna raced into a 1-1 to 0-0 lead in the opening three minutes before Na Piarsaigh clawed their way back into the game, trailing by just one at the time of the incident involving Canning and Dempsey.
The teams were level at half-time and only a point separated them on 40 minutes, but then Portumna raised a gear to score five unanswered points, enough of a gap to withstand Dowling’s late goal.
The match was played in atrocious weather, with rain and a very strong wind throughout, but Stack conceded that the winners deserved their All-Ireland final prize.
The Na Piarsaigh manager said: “It will take a while to get over that one, but as I said before the match, in conditions like this you’re not blaming anyone. They were better than us.”
One bright note on a dark evening for the Munster champions was the performance of 17-year-old forward Ronan Lynch, who gave a virtuoso display which included two points from sideline balls.
SCORERS – Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 1-4 (1-0 pen, four frees), Ronan Lynch (0-3, two sidelines), Kevin Downes 0-2, Kevin Ryan 0-1, Pat Gleeson 0-1.
NA PIARSAIGH – Padraic Kennedy, Kieran Breen, Cathal King, Michael Casey, Niall Buckley, David Breen, James O’Brien, Alan Dempsey, William O’Donoghue, Kieran Kennedy, Kevin Downes, David Dempsey, Kevin Ryan, Shane Dowling, Ronan Lynch. Subs: Pat Gleeson for Kieran Kennedy (26 mins), David Sheppard for William O’Donoghue (36 mins), Brian Hartnett for David Dempsey (52 mins), John Madden for James O’Brien (52 mins).