NA Piarsaigh have been the dark horses of this year’s senior hurling championship.
From a relegation playoff last September to only their second county semi-final since lifting the cup back in 2004. This is a new team, though ’04 veterans Stephen O’Sullivan, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Darren Mannix are the management team, with Christopher Joyce at the heart of their efforts.
He’s loving every minute of this club campaign, with Blackrock next up on Sunday week, but insists their young guns deserve all the plaudits. U21s Pádraig Guest and Shane Forde were their goalscorers on Saturday night in a 3-15 to 1-10 dismissal of Bandon.
“Padraig Guest, Kelvin Forde, Shane Forde, all the younger lads… they’ve pace and they’ve no fear. They just go out and play. They’ve plenty of hurling and they get the ball and want to break the tackle.
“I’ve never seen lads work harder, even at training. You’re under so much pressure on the ball when you’re training, they’re hungry for work and that’s the intensity you need."
Piarsaigh boss Stephen O’Sullivan also feels 21-year-old Guest, who missed last year through injury, deserves the headlines, having nailed the pressure free to beat the Glen in the previous round.
“He spent six months in the gym bulking himself up, now you’d still be worried about a gust of wind blowing him away, but he’s put in an awful amount of work.
“He stood up the last day and put that free over against the Glen. Guest’s family are Na Piarsaigh through and through. He told me back in January that we’d get to a semi-final. Now of course I’ve told him that’s not good enough anymore! But look he’s very dedicated.”
Building on what has already been a sizzling season is very much Joyce’s aim.
“A lot of people were saying beating the Glen was our county final. We knew we’d a great chance. You could actually take it that all four teams knew the whole thing was open.”
The Cork powerhouse had to sacrifice his own game last weekend, switched over on Michael Cahalane.
“I know Mikey, he’s a great player, but man-marking probably isn’t my game. I found myself in around full-back at the start of the second half but I don’t need to be the one on the ball. We’ve plenty of great players so I’ll do my job and once we’re winning that’s grand.
“When you’ve a job to do for your club that’s exactly what you do. The other 14 were the same and that’s why we got out with the win.”
The last few weeks have picked Joyce up after the disappointment of the All-Ireland semi-final.
“Obviously I was very low after the Waterford game. The lads let me alone the Tuesday night but on the Thursday I went up and played a bit of football, first time in about five years, and it was something different.
“We’d the Glen then. I’m good friends with Brossie (Dean Brosnan) and them, so I was buzzing for that and with winning you’re right in the thick of it.”
When he does return to Rebel red, it’ll be under a new manager after Kieran Kingston’s shock decision to walk away.
“It was a surprise, disappointing. It’s his decision so we’ll just have to see what happens now.”