WATCH: 13-man Na Piarsaigh shut down Slaughtneil to claim All Ireland Final place.

Na Piarsaigh 3-15 Slaughtneil 3-08

13-man Na Piarsaigh had to dig deep into their reserves of character, fitness and resolve to get past Slaughtneil in their AIB All Ireland Club semi final in Parnell Park on Saturday.

The Munster champions played most of the second half with 13 players and had to come from behind following the dismissals of Conor Boylan and Tommy Grimes to straight red card within minutes of the second-half starting.

Rather than buckle under the expected onslaught, Na Piarsaigh showed why they are one of the best club sides in the country with a masterclass in game management and how to control a game when shorthanded.

Ronan Lynch top scored with 14 points, 11 from placed balls, while Mike Casey led a strong defensive display in the second-half and Dowling impressed when brought on.

The Derry side opened the scoring through captain Christopher McKaigue after two minutes as Slaughtneil started the better of the two sides. O’Doherty then added two points before nailing a 16th minute goal for Slaughtneil from a penalty – when Brendan Rodgers was hauled down – that put clear daylight between the teams.

Na Piarsaigh responded well when a Conor Boylan strike raised a green flag to level the game at 1-4 apiece. But in a game that was coming to the boil nicely, Slaughtneil once more hit back with a  rapid fire 1-01 within two minutes.

Meehaul McGrath popped over a point before Brendan Rodgers this time set up Brian Cassidy for a goal with a great catch and quick lay off. The Derry side went into the half time break with a 2-6 to 1-6 lead despite the aid of a significant wind.

Na Piarsaigh sprung Shane Dowling form the bench – for his first competitive action since the county final in October – in a bid to kickstart their second half.

However the real drama was yet to unfold as goalscorer Boylan and wing back Grimes were both given straight red cards for striking offences. The odds had shifted back in favour of the 11-point underdogs as quoted by the bookies before the throw in.

Such a blow would be fatal for most teams, but the dismissal of two key players didn’t throw Na Piarsaigh into disarray. What it did in fact was sharpen their focus and increase their resolve. Indeed at times the second half it looked as if the sky blue jerseys were the ones with the numerical advantage.

Na Piarsaigh went on to take control of the game with Ronan Lynch converting a succession of frees before Dowling fed Downes for a 41st minute goal that put Na Piarsaigh 2-11 to 2-06 clear.

In truth, they were never in trouble as they filtered back to snuff out attacks and were clinical and efficient with their efforts on target. They took the sting and pace out the game and managed to frustrate Slaughtneil’s attacking plan.

Na Piarsaigh’s third goal from Dowling was a beauty, putting them seven clear, as he won back possession and flicked the ball up before volleying it home to the awe of the crowd.

Gerald Bradley clawed back a late goal for Slaughtneil but it was mere consolation at that stage.

Na Piarsaigh: Podge Kennedy; Niall Buckley, Mike Casey, Jerome Boylan; Alan Dempsey, Cathal King, Tommy Grimes; Ronan Lynch (0-14, 0-11f), William O’Donoghue; Conor Boylan (1-00), David Breen, David Dempsey; Peter Casey (0-01), Kevin Downes (1-00), Adrian Breen.

Subs: Kieran Kennedy for Grimes (blood), Shane Dowling (1-00) for A Breen, Kevin Ryan for D Breen, Kennedy for D Dempsey, Gordon Brown for Downes.

Slaughtneil: Oisin O’Doherty; Karl McKaigue, Sean Cassidy, Paul McNeill; Shane McGuigan, Christopher McKaigue (0-01), Cormac McKenna; Eanna Cassidy, Meehaul McGrath (0-01); Brendan Rodgers (0-01), Cormac O’Doherty (1-03, 1-00pen, 0-02f), Mark McGuigan; Gerald Bradley (1-0), Brian Cassidy (1-02), Conor McAllister.

Subs: Gareth O’Kane for McAllister.

Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).