Two teams remain undefeated after a pair of rounds in the top tier of Limerick hurling.
After missing out on retaining their title last year, Na Piarsaigh are the early front runners for the Limerick SHC following a pair of wins in the opening rounds of the 2022 championship.
They defeated Kilmallock who are now level with round two winners Doon and Patrickswell. Ahane and Adare failed to add to their opening day point in group one.
Ballybrown have started like a train in the other group and were the impressive team of the round with a huge win over Mungret St Pauls.
The championship now takes a break until the first weekend of June with some major talking points coming out of the second round of games.
Na Piarsaigh lay down their marker
Despite coming into the season as defending champions, Kilmallock were second in the bookies eyes with Na Piarsiagh installed as the early favourites. Kieran Bermingham’s men left it late in round one while the Balbec were super impressive against Patrickswell.
But when the teams met in Doon last weekend, it was Na Piarsaigh that left with the share of the spoils, holding on for a 1-19 to 1-18 win. It was only a solitary point victory, but Na Piarsaigh led for the majority of the contest barring a Kilmallock purple patch midway through the second half.
That period alone will give the Balbec confidence should the sides meet in the knockout stages but there is no doubting the happier side heading into the break.
Mike and Peter Casey have slotted seamlessly back into the fold, Kevin Downes has been unerring on frees while William O’Donoghue is a tour de force in the middle of any park he steps foot on. Outside of that, the likes of the Boylan brothers and Adrian Breen are starters on every other team in the championship. But as usual, David Dempsey is the key with the forward instrumental to everything good that the Caherdavin outfit produce.
The 4/6 favourites are certainly living up to that tag.
Doon and Patrickswell get first wins of the campaign
Coming into the championship, Doon and Patrickswell would have been confident of reaching the last four of the Limerick SHC such was their recent record in the competition. Each have appeared in the semi-finals, alongside Kilmallock and Na Piarsaigh in each of the last five seasons, with a pair of final appearances for both.
Patrickswell’s run stretches all the way back to 2015, with the ‘Well contesting three finals and wining a pair of titles in that time.
But opening day losses immediately put both on the back foot. However, they responded with second round wins while Kilmallock’s loss puts a top two finish within reach. For Doon, a slow start will have been worrying to Tadhg Hayes but the manner of the recovery will be pleasing for the East Limerick side who know three wins will be enough for a semi-final spot.
Patrickswell, had to fight that bit more with a pair of Jordan Higgins goals enough to see off a stubborn Ahane side. But without a number of key players, the ‘Well got the job done and will be hopeful of welcoming a couple back after the three-week hiatus.
Ahane and Adare will have something to say about those top four spots but for the time being it looks like normal service will be resumed.
Ballybrown look to break the stranglehold
As mentioned, the last four in the Limerick SHC since 2017 has consisted of Doon, Patrickswell, Na Piarsaigh and Kilmallock. No one has been able to break that strangle hold and outside of South Liberties and Adare last year, no team has really got close.
One team that looks determined to do so is Ballybrown, who alongside Na Piarsaigh have a perfect record after a pair of rounds. The City side saw off Blackrock with relative ease in the first round but it is the manner of the 14-point win over Mungret St Pauls that has really caught the attention.
One of, if not the biggest club teams in the county, Ballybrown are able to match that brawn with skill as they showed clipping over 2-25 in Claughaun last Saturday.
The three-in-a-row minor teams are coming of age, spearheaded by Colin Coughlan and Aidan O’Connor, two of the finest players in the county.
Hard to imagine a scenario where they don’t finish in the top two of the second group and no one in the top tier will fancy meeting them in the quarter-finals.
Who joins them is anyone’s guess
If Ballybrown are the standout team in group two, the second best side in the group is anyone’s guess if the first pair of rounds are anything to go by.
Mungret St Pauls, Kildimo Pallaskenry, South Liberties and Garryspillane all sit on two points with Blackrock yet to register.
However, everyone has shown the capabilities of beating the other. Mungret beat KP, who defeated South Liberties, who overcame Garryspillane in round one.
The next round of fixtures will tell a lot with Mungret St Pauls taking on Garryspillane, South Liberties meet Blackrock while Kildimo Pallaskenry take on Ballybrown.
And despite losing a pair of games, Blackrock cannot be counted out. A fascinating subplot in an intriguing SHC.