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Celbridge ready to Rock again

A GREAT superstar for Dublin in his day, Barney Rock, managing Celbridge in their first ever Kildare SFC final yesterday, proved that he is something of a saint too.

In the third minute of injury-time, his corner-forward star Mark O'Sullivan was soloing up the left-wing when he was upended by Niall Hedderman, but referee Liam Herbert, to Celbridge's disgust, decided a throw-in was more appropriate and their appeal for a chance to snatch a historic late winner was ignored.

Yet Rock, remarkably, refused to have a lash, saying stoically of the controversial decision "you get some, you lose some".

"Look, Dermot Earley could have had a goal there in the first half and we live to fight another day," he reflected. "We haven't played one (a senior final) in 123 years and all of a sudden we get two in the one week so we'll take that!"

Considering O'Sullivan, finding himself unmarked after being gifted a free-out by Conor Duffy, had just squandered a great scoring chance a minute earlier, it's fair to say that local side Sarsfields, chasing a 22nd title, their third of the Noughties, got out of jail twice in those dying minutes.

And both sides will want to improve radically because if the replay, fixed for the Bank Holiday Monday, is anything as error-strewn and turgid, then the County Board could bill it as a 'Halloween Horror' event and not get done under the Trades Description Act.

Yesterday's first score didn't come until the 16th minute, by which time Celbridge had already shot two wides and dropped four more chances short.

Then, as they racked up four unanswered points, Sarsfields shot five wides and didn't actually score until the 31st minute when a Paddy Campbell free spared them from registering a mortifying first-half 'duck'.

Trailing 0-4 to 0-1 at half-time, their supporters lamented the fact that forward ace Padraig Brennan was away on army duty in Chad.


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Rumours had abounded that Brennan might be flown home and frankly, only the sight of him being winched into midfield off a Chinook helicopter could have enlivened this drab affair of 'recessional football', admittedly not helped by the stormy conditions.

Celbridge, without injured Jim Creighton, brought Adrian Cahill into a hugely re-jigged line-up.

Sarsfield's main tactical switch was to bring U-21 star Gary White to centre-back in a switch with Stevie Ussher, which didn't work considering Cormac McEvoy still starred.

Fielding 10 of last year's beaten finalists, Sarsfields made a plethora of unforced errors and hospital passes and wasted several short frees. Apart from top-scorer Campbell (0-6), they had little penetration up front with Kildare forward Alan Smith a big disappointment.

Their teenage fullback David Duggan (19) struggled initially but finally got to grips with Tom Fitzgerald who grabbed Celbridge's two first scores within a minute of each other.

At the other end, county star Earley, unmarked inside, missed an absolute sitter from point-blank range after 23 minutes.

And when Mark O'Sullivan responded by lobbing over a fantastic line-ball and Cahill then burst through the middle to extend Celbridge's lead to four, 'The Sash' looked in serious trouble, with only Duffy stopping the floodgates from opening early on.

Even their more experienced midfield didn't shine and Celbridge's David Byrne won some particularly vital ball there in the late exchanges. Yet Sarsfield's improved defence, and the arrival of substitute Eoin O'Sullivan, gave them a platform from which to launch a laboured comeback.

Three points in three minutes from Campbell (0-2) and Dunne, saw them equalise with five minutes left when the game finally took life. Hugh McGrillen's fist put Celbridge ahead again but Campbell, who earned and took his own free, equalised before the frenetic final minutes after which Sarsfields were the more relieved.

"We still would have had to score that free," Rock stressed of the last-minute controversy.

"The ref was beside it and I wouldn't say anything about frees because, in any game, you get some and don't get others. If we'd lost the match it might be different, but we're still there and it depends on who learns most and takes their chances best next week."

Sarsfields' boss Paul Doyle was equally philosophical.

"We'd chances in the last 10-15 minutes and we didn't take them and drive on but we'll be working on that next week and look, we didn't lose today, that was our objective," he said.

"It was a defensive-minded game but hopefully we'll come back and have everything sorted and I think both sides gave it their all and a draw was a fair result," Doyle added.

Scorers -- Celbridge: T Fitzgerald 0-3, M O'Sullivan 0-2 (1f, 1 s'line), H McGrillen and A Cahill 0-1 each. Sarsfields: P Campbell 0-6 (4f), M Dunne 0-1.

Celbridge -- P Spratt; M Deegan, R Hannon, D McEvoy; O Lyons, P Carty, M Wright; H McGrillen, D Byrne; P Fitzgerald (Capt), C McEvoy, M O'Sullivan; B Moyles, T Fitzgerald, A Cahill. Subs: S Harte for Moyles (27 mins), M Moloney for Cahill (52).

Sarsfields -- P O'Sullivan; N Hedderman (Capt), D Duggan, C Duffy; K Harvey, G White, R Murphy; D Earley, E Freaney; C Tiernan, S Ussher, M Dunne; P Campbell, A Barry, A Smith. Subs: E O'Sullivan for Ussher (44), J Geraghty for Freaney (52).

Ref -- Liam Herbert.

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