Thursday 22 February 2018

Sarsfields joy as Cahill makes rivals pay penalty

Sarsfields 2-13 Moorefield 0-15

Ray Cahill slots home the crucial first-half penalty. Photo: Sportsfile
Ray Cahill slots home the crucial first-half penalty. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Retaining the county title for the first time in 22 years made it a special occasion for Sarsfields and the satisfaction was further decorated by having beaten their great Newbridge rivals in the final for the first time since 2001.

Moorefield - who played the final 14 minutes without Ronan Sweeney after he was sent off on a straight red card - had beaten Sarsfields in five finals since then and seemed to be on their way to a sixth success when they led by four points coming up to half-time.

They had been far superior to Sarsfields up to then, building up an impressive momentum in the final 10 minutes, during which they scored four points.

However, all changed just before the interval, after Sarsfields were awarded a controversial penalty when referee Fergal Barry adjudged that Dan Nea had been fouled in the square as the ball flew wide.

Nea had no chance of getting to it, but the referee still pointed to the penalty spot, providing Ray Cahill with a goal chance which he took with a superb strike.

It left Moorefield a point ahead (0-8 to 1-4) at the interval, a lead that in no way reflected their overall dominance.

Sarsfields captain Donnachadh McDonnell lifts the Dermot Bourke Cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Sarsfields captain Donnachadh McDonnell lifts the Dermot Bourke Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

They might have had three goals, but instead managed only one point from those chances, with Jason Philips taking the safe option in the 29th minute.

Earlier, Sarsfields goalkeeper Andy O'Brien had made a great save from Adam Tyrrell and Moorefield captain Ciaran Kelly wasted another opportunity when firing wide from close in.

With Moorefield well on top, those misses didn't look especially significant, but given what happened later they may well have decided the outcome.

"For some reason, we were in third gear for most of the first half. We just never got going, but we talked about it at half-time and came up with a plan which worked in the second-half," said Sarsfields captain Donnchadh McDonnell.

Gary White of Sarsfields in action against Ryan Houlihan of Moorefield. Photo: Sportsfile
Gary White of Sarsfields in action against Ryan Houlihan of Moorefield. Photo: Sportsfile

Manager John Crofton was even more puzzled by the holders' first-half lethargy.

"We didn't come out of the traps at all. I was disappointed with our lack of energy in that first-half. We weren't showing for the ball the way we should. We were also going too narrow in attack and playing straight into Moorefield's hands. They bossed most of that first half and there's no doubt that the penalty was a get-out-of-jail card for us," he said.

Was that a harsh call against Moorefield? "It's time we got a break in a county final," replied Crofton.

Sarsfields were an altogether different outfit in a second half where the standard improved somewhat. It needed to, as there was a marked absence of real quality in the first-half, during which 31 frees were awarded.

The introduction of Conor Tiernan - controversially sent off in last year's final against Athy -added pace and menace to a Sarsfields attack that unlocked the Moorefield defence in the 37th minute when Alan Smith pounced for a crucial goal after an excellent move.

It was level at the three-quarter mark, but Sarsfields pressed on from there, outscoring their increasingly ragged rivals by 0-6 to 0-2 on the run-in. Sweeney's dismissal probably had a major bearing on the game as he was playing well in the middle third, but his day ended when the referee had no hesitation in sending him off for kicking out at Gary White.

Moorefield battled hard to compensate for his absence, but their efforts lacked cohesion against a dogged Sarsfields defence where 19-year-old full-back Shea Ryan turned in a man of the match performance.

At the other end, Cahill scored 1-5, while Nea and Tiernan were also sharp in creating openings in the second half. "We showed a lot of maturity, which was impressive from such a young team. Four of the defenders from last year weren't there and others were missing, too, so it was great to see how lads stepped up to the mark," said Crofton.

Those five county final defeats by Moorefield stung the Sarsfields faithful, but according to the captain, it wasn't an issue for the players.

"The past is history. All that mattered was how we played today. It took us a good while to get going, but once we did, we were happy with how we performed," said McDonnell.

Now the focus switches to the Leinster championship, where Sarsfields will play Baltinglass (Wicklow) or Sean O'Mahonys (Louth) on November 13.

Scorers - Sarsfields: R Cahill 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-3fs), A Smith 1-0, D Nea 0-3 (1f),C Tiernan 0-2, C McDonnell, C McInerney Aspell, R Fitzgibbon 0-1 each.

Moorefield: A Tyrrell 0-5 (3fs), R Sweeney 0-4 (3fs), E O'Connor 0-2, C Kelly 0-2, D Whyte, J Philips 0-1 each.

Sarsfields - A O'Brien; C Duffy, S Ryan, D McDonnell; B Coffey, G Whyte, C McInerney Aspell; C McDonnell, C Kavanagh; R Fitzgibbon, R Cahill, C Hartley; B McCormack, D Nea, A Smith. Subs: C Tiernan for Coffey (ht), J Healy for Duffy (42).

Moorefield - T Kinsella; L Callaghan, N Galvin, L Healy; R Houlihan, P O'Flynn, A Durney; D Whyte, K Murnaghan; E O'Connor, R Sweeney, A Tyrrell; C Kelly, J Philips, J Murray.

Subs: N Hurley Lynch for Philips (50), I Meehan for Kelly (58), C Barrett for Durney (63), D Flynn for Tyrrell (63).

REF - F Barry (Monasterevin).

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