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The Clare hurling legend chasing a Limerick county title as manager

Banner great Sean Stack hopes to guide Na Piarsaigh to hurling glory in Limerick tomorrow.

Na Piarsaigh boss Sean Stack.
Na Piarsaigh boss Sean Stack.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

HE’S BEEN ONE of many happy Clare men this week.

Sean Stack’s own playing career with Clare may not have yielded championship silverware.

But his reputation as a defender of note was recognised last month when he was one of the ‘Hurling Stars of the 80’s’ presented to the crowd at Croke Park before Clare and Cork played out a classic draw.

He was back at the venue last Saturday night as the Banner finished off the job in glorious fashion.

The county’s fourth All-Ireland senior title, in a year where they also climbed to the top of the U21 tree, was something to cherish.

“It’s amazing what these lads have achieved. Their level of performance is mind boggling. I suppose they have grown up in a different era where they would have memories of Clare teams winning All-Ireland titles.

“Once Clare were just so happy to be in Croke Park but the youth nowadays are so different. Reputations don’t bother them.”

Tomorrow after a memorable week for Clare hurling, Stack’s attention turns to Limerick hurling.

He’ll don the bainisteoir bib in the Gaelic Grounds for Na Piarsaigh, the Caherdavin based club in Limerick city that skirts the Clare border. They meet Adare in the county senior hurling decider.

Limerick’s marquee club game takes place after a summer where the county senior side were one of the main characters in the national hurling narrative.

David Breen, Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, Cathal King and Alan Dempsey flew the flag on the Limerick panel for Na Piarsaigh.

When it came to their All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Clare in August, Stack wished his players well but his colours were nailed firmly to the Banner mast.

“I’ll always be a Clare man”, laughs Stack. “It was never a case of divided loyalties. I’m totally immersed with Na Piarsaigh and you’d hope your own crowd play well. But that day I was shouting for Clare.”

After Limerick’s loss, the Na Piarsaigh crew retreated to the sanctuary of their club.

“They weren’t as shattered as I thought they’d be”, recalls Stack. “I grew up in Sixmilebridge and with Clare invariably out of the championship by the end of July when I was playing, I always knew that I had Sixmilebridge to go back for.

“It’s the same for these Na Piarsaigh lads. They are going back to an ambitious club who are live contenders for the Limerick championship.

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“We’d nine involved in different Limerick panels this year between senior and minor. Since Limerick have been finished in those championships, we have had a good run.”

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Sean Stack with his Na Piarsaigh players
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Two years ago Stack steered Na Piarsaigh to their maiden Limerick senior hurling crown. With a bunch of gifted young players, they plotted a route through Munster before defeating Clare’s Crusheen in a final replay.

It was a memorable run but their subsequent All-Ireland semi-final loss in February 2012 to Loughgiel Shamrocks was a difficult blow to absorb.

“We were absolutely shattered when Loughgiel beat us. The lads couldn’t mentally get back into it last year, they’d no enthusiasm.

“We put in a terribly low performance in Parnell Park that day. Loughgiel were exceptional and deserved to win that All-Ireland. It took us until this year to get over it but they’ve been mad enthusiastic since then.”

They’ve freshened up their coaching setup this year with former Tipperary star Tommy Dunne, who was involved with Anthony Daly’s Dublin setup  as well, coming on board.

“Tommy’s been involved with other teams this year and comes with us whenever we feel we need him. He’s brought a change of voice and it’s for a variety of purposes.

“He has an exceptional knowledge of the game and the players take to him very well.”

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Tommy Dunne
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Na Piarsaigh’s form has improved and at the semi-final stage they recently ousted champions Kilmallock. Tomorrow Adare stand in their way.

“This year we were more patient with our play against Kilmallock and didn’t rush matters. That was key.

“We’re playing a really seasoned team tomorrow that have been in the three of the last four finals. Kilmallock beat us by 11 last year and beat them by two points. That’s the task we’re facing.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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