All-Ireland Club Hurling Final: Na Piarsaigh outclass Cushendall
Cushendall's All-Ireland Club Hurling dream was dashed as Na Piarsaigh clinched a comprehensive 2-25 to 2-14 win in Thursday's final at Croke Park.
Adrian Breen netted after 30 seconds for a Na Piarsaigh side who became the first Limerick winners of the title.
A Kevin Downes goal helped increase a totally dominant Na Piarsaigh's lead to 2-12 to 0-6 as half-time.
Neil McManus and Karl McKeegan scored second-half Cushendall goals but the damage had already been done.
Cushendall's prospects weren't helped by a number of players being affected by a flu bug in the run-up to the game and the experienced Sean Delargy was forced to leave the field early in the second half.
Key player McManus suffered a gash on his chin after an accidental collision with Ronan Lynch in the first period which forced him off the field for a time.
Worst possible start for Cushendall
However such was Na Piarsaigh's dominance, it's difficult to envisage that even a fully-fit Cushendall side would have been able to live with the Limerick men.
Man of the match Breen wasn't even scheduled to start but he hit 1-4 after being a late replacement for Kevin Ryan at left half-forward.
Breen's goal was the worst possible start for Cushendall, playing in their first All-Ireland decider, after nine previous semi-final defeats.
Alex Delargy and McManus did reply following the early goal but that only provoked Na Piarsaigh to really turn on the power as they forged a 1-8 to 0-3 lead after only 17 minutes.
Cushendall simply weren't able to live with Na Piarsaigh's pace, power and skill as outstanding trio David Breen, Alan Dempsey and Peter Casey were among the scores.
After Sean McAfee missed a sniff of a goal chance for Cushendall, the hitherto subdued Downes lashed in Na Piarsaigh's second goal in the 25th minute to extend their lead to 2-10 to 0-3.
Na Piarsaigh players from all over the pitch were showing an ability to score from distance with Adrian Breen, Dempsey, Shane Dowling and Downes among the best exponents of the art.
Cushendall battle gamely in second half
Trailing 2-12 to 0-6 at half-time, Cushendall looked to be staring down the barrel of an absolute rout but they battled gamely in the second period, although there was more than a suspicion of Na Piarsaigh taking their foot off the gas.
Five straight points extended Na Piarsaigh's lead to 2-18 to 0-8 by the 38th minute before McManus flicked in a Cushendall goal as he rose to connect with a Shane McNaughton high ball.
As Cushendall desperately tried to fight their way back, McManus, the battling Conor Carson and veteran substitute McKeegan saw goal efforts blocked by the Na Piarsaigh defence.
With the outcome long decided, Na Piarsaigh's efficiency levels dropped considerably in the final quarter and McKeegan poached a late Cushendall goal as he rose to divert another high ball to the net.
However, keeper Eoin Gillan still needed to make great late saves to prevent further Breen goals and the final 11-point margin flattered the Ulster champions.