Na Piarsaigh are gearing up to take part in what could be the greatest All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling final ever seen against the reigning champions Cuala from Dublin.
The Limerick and Munster top dogs will be wearing their traditional Dublin county colours and that isn’t just by chance. The club was founded in 1968 in Limerick City by a man who captained and hurled for the Dubs and also for Marino club, St Vincent’s.
The late Noel Drumgoole won a Leinster Championship with his county before his work took him to the Treaty County, where he lived in the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary. And when OffTheBall.com’s Stephen Doyle brought Drumgoole up in conversation with Kevin Downes, it turned out the Na Piarsaigh full-forward had a family link with the club’s founder.
“Yeah he was the main man in setting up the club,” said Downes. “Funnily enough my mother is from Cork originally and when she was in college in UL she stayed in digs in Limerick and the digs she stayed in was Noel Drumgoole’s house. It was a funny kind of link really, in how things panned out.
“She knew nothing about hurling at this stage but she knew this fella was starting up the Na Piarsaigh club down the road. It’s just funny the way it worked out but yeah, that’s the link with Dublin and that’s where our sky blue colours from him.
“She knew him very well, knew the family and everything. She said he was always very busy setting up meetings about Na Piarsaigh and everything.”
The club is now in it’s 48th year as their senior hurlers prepare for their attempt to add another All-Ireland senior title to the first one they won in 2016 by beating Oulart-the-Ballagh and Downes feels that the progress they have made in a relatively short space of time has been impressive.
“It just shows...that was 1968 when Na Piarsaigh was set up, so it just shows where it’s come from. At that stage it was just a barren field on the Ennis Road and not much going on. To where we’ve come to now, I came on to the senior panel in Na Piarsaigh in 2008 and it was very much a case of avoiding relegation was the main aim, to be talking about playing in a second All-Ireland final in three years.
“It’s hard for some people in the club that were there from that time, we’ve lost a few founding members there recently and a couple of stalwarts, for them to see where the club has gone to now it must be absolutely remarkable. Even from the start of my career on the senior panel, it’s different worlds really. It’s just an interesting one to see where the club has come from in a relatively short period of time.”
So many things have to right for any club to achieve success at the top level but Downes is quite adamant when putting his finger on the one thing that he feels has got his club to where it is now.
“The main key has been developing the underage [teams] and focusing on that. When we were youngsters below in the field on a Saturday morning, you’d have well over a hundred kids. Na Piarsaigh was set up by people coming from other counties mainly, and ended up setting up roots in Caherdavin or the surrounding area and they brought that kind of hurling pedigree to that side of Limerick City and that gave us our grounding.
“You had a lot of people then putting in savage work at underage and that fostered [the success] that we have today. We had huge underage success there in recent times. That doesn’t happen by chance. Ok, we had the numbers but you have to work with that as well, you have to work with what’s there.
“There’s massive credit [owed] to people that will never get publicised or get the glory they deserve but they know who they are and the work that goes in. It’s the same with any club I suppose, it’s the unsung heroes really that keep the thing going. Even in the less successful days, of which there were plenty, they kept the flag flying and kept the show on the road when others would have walked away.”
If Na Piarsaigh win a second All-Ireland senior title this St Patrick’s Day, you can be sure that Downes and co. will be bringing the Tommy Moore Cup straight back to the clubhouse to share their success with the unsung heroes.