Newcastle West and Na Piarsaigh continue to blaze trail laid by Limerick senior footballers

Both sides progressed to their respective Munster club football finals over the weekend with wins over the Tipperary champions.

Following in the footsteps of the Limerick senior team earlier this year, Newcastle West and Na Piarsaigh have Munster football finals to look forward to later this month.

Newcastle West upset the odds to defeat the championship favourites Clonmel Commercials in Thurles while Na Piarsaigh bested Ballina in penalties to book their final berth.

And like the senior side, it will Kerry opposition in the final for the Limerick representatives, Newcastle West take on Kerins O’Rahillys and Na Piarsaigh to meet Rathmore.

The Limerick Intermediate and Senior champions reaching the Munster club finals is another step in the right direction for football in the county following Billy Lee’s men appearing in a first provincial final in twelve years earlier this May.

28 May 2022; Brian Fanning of Limerick makes his way out for the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Limerick at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

On that day, Kerry proved far too strong as the Kingdom went on to win the All-Ireland title two months later. But, still it was further improvement for a Limerick side that had gone seven years without a win in the province from 2012 to 2019.

Since that famous win over Tipperary in Semple Stadium in 2019, Limerick have beaten Waterford (2), Clare and Tipperary in the province while also earning promotion to the second tier of the League.

And that success has begun to spread into the club game with two Limerick sides preparing for Munster finals after dramatic wins on Sunday.

Newcastle West looked dead and buried in their Munster semi-final with Commercials but like they did in the county final, the Magpies never panicked and eventually got the ball into a scoring area with Ruadhan O’Connor applying in the finish.

That score looked to give them the desired confidence as they steamrolled the favourites in extra-time outscoring them 1-3 to 0-1. Na Piarsaigh’s victory was as dramatic as they not only needed extra-time but also penalties with keeper Eoghain Sherlock saving a pair, to go with one in normal time, as they prevailed in Kilmallock.

27 November 2022; Newcastle West players Diarmuid Kelly, right, and Cian Sheehan after their side’s victory in the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Semi-Final match between Clonmel Commercials and Newcastle West at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

It brought Limerick’s tally of victories in the Munster championship this year to four with Na Piarsaigh adding to their win over Roanmore while Castlemahon accounted for Shamrocks in their quarter-final before losing to Fossa.

To put it into context, Limerick only picked up a single win in 2021 (NCW’s victory over the Nire) while the previous win for a local side was Croom against Ballyduff Lower in 2019.

Indeed, Limerick’s last trip to a Munster Football Club final was in 2017 as St Senans overcame both Kiladangan (Tipperary) and Kimihil (Clare) to set up a final clash with An Ghaeltacht. The Kerry outfit proved far too strong as did Kenmare Shamrocks twelve months previously when they met Adare in the same final.

The previous Limerick side to reach a provincial football final was Glin in 2014 as they pushed Kerry’s Brosna all the way in a 0-15 to 2-6 defeat. That was the fourth time in five years that a Limerick side had made it to the Junior final but Castlemahon, Cappamore and Bruree all suffered the same fate against Kerry opposition.

Yet, Limerick’s wait for a Munster title goes all the way back to 2008 when Drom Broadford became the first and only Treaty club to win the senior championship as they beat Kilmurry Ibrickane in the decider following a win over kingpins Nemo Rangers in the semis.

That landmark win came in the midst of a bright spell for the intercounty side as they reached four Munster finals in six years, falling to Kerry in 2003, ’04 and ’10 while Cork escaped with the win in the 2009 finale. They then made a first-ever All-Ireland quarter-final in 2011 before that lengthy wait for another win in the province.

7 December 2008; Dromcollogher Broadford captain Tom McLoughlin, second from right, celebrates at the end of the game with his team-mates. AIB Munster Senior Club Football Championship Final, Dromcollogher Broadford v Kilmurray Ibrickane, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

But after a barren number of years, Limerick are certainly on the rise in football circles once more and the club results are proving that true.

Coming into Sunday’s senior semi-final, Clonmel were unbackable favourites but Newcastle West were the better team throughout with a sucker punch goal the only real blip in the contest. To put it into context, Clonmel two weeks previously had put Cork champions Nemo to the sword.

What’s more, losing Limerick finalists Adare will look at Sunday’s game as a potential missed opportunity. They had all but beat Newcastle West in the county final only for a last-minute intervention by Darren Doherty, not dissimilar to Ruadhan O’Connor on Sunday. Monaleen for the second successive season pushed the Magpies all the way in the semi-finals while Fr Caseys lost by a single point in the group stages.

To their credit, Newcastle West have shown their ability to adapt to the Munster championship as they ended a 13-year wait for a Limerick side to win in the senior championship last year after threatening to do so against Commercials in 2015 and Nemo four years later.

However, another Munster win for Newcastle and consequently a place in the final will provide much needed encouragement for the remainder of the Limerick sides who will not see the provincial series as such a tall order with Na Piarsaigh proving the same for the Intermediate representatives next year.

Kerins O’Rahillys and Rathmore will deservedly be favoured for the finals but that’s no disservice to Newcastle West or Na Piarsaigh but more a signal towards Kerry’s domination of the championships.

In the last decade, Kerry sides have won 24 out of a possible 30 club titles with Cork accounting for five of the others and Clonmel’s 2015 senior success the other outlier. Fossa’s twenty-point win over Castlemahon highlighted the gulf between the teams at that level.

Beating a Kerry side in any regard has proved impossible for Limerick teams but Na Piarsaigh and Newcastle West are only sixty minutes from history.

Still, regardless of the results in a fortnight’s time, Limerick football is definitely on the rise and with a stint in division two on the horizon alongside Cork and Clare there is further opportunity for the Shannonsiders for the claim of second best in Munster.

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