AIB All Ireland Club Hurling Championship
Loughgiel hurlers bid to go one better than last year when they travel to Parnell Park Dublin on Saturday to take on Limerick and Munster champions Na Piarsaigh in the semi-final of the AIB All Ireland Club Hurling Championship.
The Shamrocks were beaten at the same stage last season when they lost out to Kilkenny kingpins O’Loughlin Gaels at the same venue.
This time around they are determined to learn from last year’s defeat and the experience gained from it as they bid to win their way through to the final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
Standing in their way are newly crowned Limerick and Munster champions Na Piarsaigh who created a sensation in the southern province in 2011 by winning the Limerick title for the first time in their history and then going on to add the provincial crown for good measure.
Managed by former Clare great Sean Stack the Limerick champions are a big strong outfit with youth very much on their side.
The team that beat Clare champions Crusheen in the replay of the Munster final contained seven members of the Limerick team that won last season’s Munster Under 21 championship.
Two of those seven full-forward Kevin Downes and corner-forward Shane Dowling are players who are already earmarked for greatness following their displays for club and county in the past year.
Dowling, who is still a minor, is a very accurate free taker who scored 1-7 in the drawn Munster club final and 0-3 in the replay, all from placed balls.
The Limerick champions are a physically imposing side with centre-back James O’Brien (who was Man of the Match in the Munster final replay) a commanding figure at the heart of their defence.
On their way to Sunday’s game Loughgiel have beaten Cushendall in the Antrim final and Dungiven from Derry in the Ulster decider. In preparation for Saturday’s game they have played a series of challenge games against county and club sides and two weeks ago spent a weekend down in Leinster where they played challenge games against the Wexford county team and All Ireland Intermediate Club finalists Mount Leinster Rangers.
They know they face a mighty challenge if they are to take a step closer to regaining the All Ireland title the club won back in 1983 but the team and the supporters are raring to go and come Saturday their legions of fans will decend on Dublin hoping to cheer their heroes to victory.