ON a day when deepest autumn borrowed summer weather, Sarsfields prospered in the glorious sunshine which bathed St Conleth's Park, Newbridge as they returned to the summit of Kildare club football for the first time since 2005.
They did it the hard way, having had to rummage deep in their character bag after frittering away a significant first-quarter advantage, which helped them to open up a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 13 minutes. Padraig Brennan and Man of the Match Alan Smith had scored all five points between them as Sarsfields out-gunned Carbury across every line.
It looked as though the 'Sash' were headed for an easy victory, but after suffering what team manager John Crofton later described as "a collective power failure" they found themselves two points behind at half-time and again coming up to the three-quarter stage.
The period between the 15th and 44th minutes saw Carbury out-score Sarsfields by 0-7 to 0-1, with Eoin O'Flaherty's accuracy from frees and Terry Rossiter's marksmanship from open play crucial to the much-improved performance by Stephen Darby's team.
However, as the team manager later pointed out, Carbury's failure to rack up more scores from several good chances during their spells of dominance left them vulnerable to Sarsfields' counter-punches, which were always likely to come.
Crucially, Carbury kicked six wides in the third quarter and while they still led by two points the entire complexion of a most enjoyable game changed in the 45th minute. Influential sub Caoimhghin McDonnell bounded through at pace, passed to Smith who rerouted possession to Declan McKenna, creating the opening for the wing-forward to flick the ball to the net.
With their confidence levels rising, Sarsfields scored three points in the next eight minutes, leaving Carbury facing the inevitability of a second successive county final defeat. As Sarsfields' control grew, they struck for a second goal late on when wing-back, Conor Tiernan drove a penalty to the net after McKenna had been fouled.
It meant that Sarsfields had won the final quarter by 2-5 to 0-3, which was fair reflection of the general trend in that period. It was as if Sarsfields' first goal rattled Carbury into submission, robbing them of the impressive sense of enterprise they displayed in the second and third quarters.
"It was there for the taking. We had our chances but just didn't convert enough of them into scores. It's not that they (Sarsfields) won it -- we lost it. That's what makes it all the harder to take. Sarsfields deserved to win, but it's a final we left behind," said Darby.
He was a content man at half-time, having watched his side patiently play their way out of early trouble to establish a rhythm and momentum, which raised hopes among their large following that the Dermot Burke Cup was on its way to Carbury for the first time since 1985.
"We were in a good position at half-time. We felt that if we got a few early scores and settled down in the second half we'd be okay, but we missed a lot of chances in the first 10 minutes, which made a huge difference," said Darby. "And when Sarsfields got their first goal, it gave them the upper hand physically and mentally. They never looked back after that."
That was indeed the case, but as Sarsfields assess the game and look ahead to a Leinster quarter-final clash with Rhode (Offaly) or St Patrick's (Louth) on November 11, they will no doubt reflect on how they faded out after making such an impressive start.
"It's hard to know why it happened. We let our work rate drop a bit when we went five-one up and Carbury took full advantage. We found it hard to get going again in the second half too, but the goal changed everything. It gave us the lift we needed and once we started winning more ball around midfield, the chances began to come our way," said Alan Smith, who scored 0-4 from open play in a highly productive performance.
One significant difference between the teams was the impetus Sarsfields were able to inject through the introduction of subs.
Dan Nea and McDonnell were especially effective, while they also made three other changes, whereas Carbury retained their starting 15 until late on.
Having lost three county finals since their last success in 2005, it was important for Sarsfields to end that particular run and while they were helped enormously by Carbury's missed chances, there is no doubt that they are an impressive outfit when they get their game going .
"Seven years is a long time to have to wait for another title. This win means an awful lot to the club, especially when we won it in the way we did. It took a lot of character to get things back on track after we lost our way in the first half," said Smith.
It was hugely disappointing for Carbury, who have to live with the misery of successive county final defeats.
"This is harder to take than last year. Playing in a county final was new to us then, but with that experience behind us we believed we were ready to win. Losing is a devastating blow to us, especially since we had every chance to win," said Darby.
scorers -- Sarsfields: D McKenna 1-1, A Smith 0-4, P Brennan (2f), G White (2f, 1 '45') 0-3 each, C Tiernan 1-0 (pen).
Carbury: E O'Flaherty 0-5 (5f), T Rossiter 0-3, D Cash, W Groome, A Dermody 0-1 each.
Sarsfields -- P O'Sullivan; S Hurley, S Campbell, C Duffy; C Tiernan, N O'Callaghan, D McDonnell; M Byrne, G White; D McKenna, R Cahill, M Brown; P Brennan, R Confrey, A Smith. Subs: D Nea for Brown (h-t), C Walsh for Cahill (33), C McDonnell for Byrne (42), A McInerney Aspell for D McDonnell (46), E Freaney for Brennan (58).
Carbury -- N Kenna; G Mangan, L Holt, S McKeon; B O'Flaherty, D O'Brien, D Moore; D Cash, S Costello; W Groome, T Rossiter, M O'Flaherty; K McNamara, E O'Flaherty, A Dermody. Subs: J Crowe for McKeon (55), S Kelly for Groome (58).
Ref -- N Colgan.