13-man Na Piarsaigh battle through to AIB Club Hurling Final
AIB All-Ireland senior club hurling championship semi-final
NA PIARSAIGH (LIMERICK) 3-15 SLAUGHTNEIL (DERRY) 3-8
By Paul Keane at Parnell Park, Dublin
Hot favourites Na Piarsaigh dug deep at Parnell Park to secure their AIB All-Ireland club hurling final place, coming from behind and battling with just 13 men for much of the second-half.
Shane O'Neill's men were in a tricky position at the break when they trailed by three and they lost goalscorer Conor Boylan and defender Tommy Grimes to 33rd and 35th minute red cards.
But when the need was greatest the former All-Ireland champions conjured their best play with a storming second-half performance that yielded a comfortable win in the end.
County man and free-taker Ronan Lynch fired 14 points on the afternoon while Shane Dowling came on after knee trouble and had a huge second-half, scoring a goal and setting up another.
The win means Na Piarsaigh remain in line for a second All-Ireland win in three seasons and they will play holders Cuala or Liam Mellows at Croke Park on March 17.
But they will be without the two red carded players who will be suspended for the glamour occasion.
Brave Slaughtneil arrived at the Donnycarney venue armed with a vocal support who roared in approval as they controlled the first-half and asked serious questions of the fancied side.
Captain Christopher McKaigue opened the scoring after two minutes and, save for a couple of periods when the sides were level, Slaughtneil remained in pole position for the most part.
Cormac O'Doherty fired two points before nailing a 16th minute goal for Slaughtneil from a penalty that put clear daylight between the teams.
The excellent Brendan Rodgers was hauled down by full-back Mike Casey and O'Doherty slammed the resulting penalty to the roof of the net.
Boylan responded with a Na Piarsaigh goal six minutes later when he shot home under pressure from the left, levelling it at 1-4 apiece.
But the Slaughtneil response was emphatic, and indicative of their enthusiastic approach all afternoon, as they reeled off 1-1 in the following 90 seconds.
Meehaul McGrath thundered over a point shortly after Boylan's net blast before Rodgers this time set up Brian Cassidy for a goal with a great catch.
Slaughtneil deservedly led by 2-6 to 0-6 at half-time and were making a mockery of the 11-point handicap placed on Na Piarsaigh by bookmakers.
Experienced Limerick forward Dowling came on at half-time for Na Piarsaigh after missing all of the provincial championship due to a knee injury sustained in October's county final.
Dowling made a great catch in the 41st minute and fed Kevin Downes for a fine goal that capped a purple patch for Na Piarsaigh who went from three down to five clear at 2-11 to 2-6.
Lynch was on target in that period with a succession of converted frees though Na Piarsaigh were dramatically reduced to 13 following the two sending offs.
Goalscorer Boylan was first to depart for an apparent strike on Shane McGuigan and Grimes then walked following a clash that left Gerald Bradley grounded.
Na Piarsaigh, depleted in numbers, crucially remained ahead on the scoreboard and bossed the second-half to surprisingly win at their ease.
Dowling's goal, Na Piarsaigh's third, came in the 52nd minute when he turned over possession, flicked the ball up and cleverly volleyed it to the net to put seven between the them, 3-12 to 2-8.
Gerald Bradley clawed back a consolation goal for Slaughtneil late on.
*Na Piarsaigh scorers: *Ronan Lynch 0-14 (0-11f), Shane Dowling 1-0, Kevin Downes 1-0, Conor Boylan 1-0, Peter Casey 0-1.
Slaughtneil scorers: Cormac O'Doherty 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), Brian Cassidy 1-2, Gerald Bradley 1-0, Brendan Rodgers 0-1, Christopher McKaigue 0-1, Meehaul McGrath 0-1.
NA PIARSAIGH: Podge Kennedy; Niall Buckley, Mike Casey, Jerome Boylan; Alan Dempsey, Cathal King, Tommy Grimes; Ronan Lynch, William O'Donoghue; Conor Boylan, David Breen, David Dempsey; Peter Casey, Kevin Downes, Adrian Breen. *Subs: *Kieran Kennedy for Grimes (24-25, blood), Shane Dowling for Adrian Breen (h/t), Kevin Ryan for David Breen (55), Kennedy for D Dempsey (56), Gordon Brown for Downes (60).
SLAUGHTNEIL: Oisin O'Doherty; Karl McKaigue, Sean Cassidy, Paul McNeill; Shane McGuigan, Christopher McKaigue, Cormac McKenna; Eanna Cassidy, Meehaul McGrath; Brendan Rodgers, Cormac O'Doherty, Mark McGuigan; Gerald Bradley, Brian Cassidy, Conor McAllister. Subs: Gareth O'Kane for McAllister (49).
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow).