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Super Sars' serve notice of their title credentials

Kildare SFC: Sarsfields 2-17 Johnstownbridge 0-10

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Going forward: Sarsfields’ Ben McCormack gets away from Johnstownbridge’s Seamus McNally during yesterday’s Kildare SFC clash at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge. Photo: Sportsfile

Going forward: Sarsfields’ Ben McCormack gets away from Johnstownbridge’s Seamus McNally during yesterday’s Kildare SFC clash at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge. Photo: Sportsfile

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Going forward: Sarsfields’ Ben McCormack gets away from Johnstownbridge’s Seamus McNally during yesterday’s Kildare SFC clash at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge. Photo: Sportsfile

On the sideline it was a family affair as Luke Dempsey's Johnstownbridge took on a Sarsfields team trained by his nephew Billy O'Loughlin.

Dempsey is married to O'Loughlin's mother's sister but they know each other well in a football sense too. At one stage the pair worked together in Westmeath. Dempsey managed and O'Loughlin played as Mullingar outfit St Loman's won a couple of county titles.

This time around they were on opposite sides, and it was O'Loughlin's reigning county champions that dished out the kind of beating that will put the rest of the county on notice, controlling all but the first quarter of the game to run out convincing winners.

"I was working under him as a player at that stage," O'Loughlin recalled of his time with St Loman's. "It was probably the last few days of my career and he was brilliant. His record is phenomenal, he probably should have gotten the Kildare job before now and it might open up for him in the future but anything I've learned in the last five or six years, a lot of it has come from him."

On this occasion the apprentice outstripped the master but it should be pointed out that Johnstownbridge went into the game without key forward Daniel Flynn. The 2018 All-Star nominee is recovering from hamstring injury that will keep him out for the next couple of weeks. They also started without Seán Hurley, who like Flynn was also on the books of an AFL side in recent times but is recovering from a serious hip injury.

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Sarsfields' Gary White in action against Johnstownbridge's Shane Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile

Sarsfields' Gary White in action against Johnstownbridge's Shane Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile

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Sarsfields' Gary White in action against Johnstownbridge's Shane Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile

 

However, even by the time Dempsey called for him on 20 minutes, Johnstownbridge were starting to ship water.

Things had been fairly even before the first water break. Sam Doran was causing Sarsfields plenty of problems and by end of the first quarter, Sars' led by 0-5 to 0-3.

However, they re-emerged a different team and from there to half-time outscored their opposition by 2-4 to 0-3. Shane Doyle grabbed the first goal as part of his 1-3 haul in the first half before Conor Harley grabbed the second to help the Newbridge men into a 2-9 to 0-6 lead at the break.

Clever

If there was any doubt about the way the game was going at that point, it was extinguished after the interval as Sarsfields, playing some clever and expansive football, hit the first four points of the second half.

By the final whistle, they had amassed nine different scorers. The only blot on the copybook for the Newbridge men was when Ben McCormack came off early in the second half but O'Loughlin insisted it wasn't a major problem.

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Sarsfields' Shane Doyle races clear of Johnstownbridge's Joey Higgins. Photo: Sportsfile

Sarsfields' Shane Doyle races clear of Johnstownbridge's Joey Higgins. Photo: Sportsfile

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Sarsfields' Shane Doyle races clear of Johnstownbridge's Joey Higgins. Photo: Sportsfile

 

And while Johnstownbridge were unlucky with goal chances for both Doran and Hurley, they were comprehensively bested.

"Daniel Flynn is a massive loss to any club and hopefully he'll be back with them," O'Loughlin said. "But that gave us good grounding that he wasn't playing and it's less to worry about but we are going quite well, we just have to keep it going. The championship is being ramped up and run off a lot quicker and we have a good strong panel so it was a good start. I wouldn't like to have been beaten by the uncle on the first day - you could be sacked!" he smiled.

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Sarsfields' Gary White kicks a point despite the best efforts of Johnstownbridge's Eoin O'Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile

Sarsfields' Gary White kicks a point despite the best efforts of Johnstownbridge's Eoin O'Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile

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Sarsfields' Gary White kicks a point despite the best efforts of Johnstownbridge's Eoin O'Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile

 

For Dempsey, taking the job with Johnstownbridge is a homecoming to his native club though he is under no illusions that the rest of Kildare have it all to do if they are to wrestle the title from outside of Newbridge.

Either Sarsfields or Moorefield have won in Kildare every year since 2011 and they have taken 15 titles between them since the turn of the millennium. And if both emerge top of their group, they'll be on course to meet in the county final for a second successive year.

"Club football in Kildare is very, very strong. The two Newbridge clubs are giants of football in Kildare and you can see Moorefield scoring 2-20, Sarsfields scoring 2-17 so all the clubs who got well beaten over the weekend have to dust themselves down and get into the second match which is must-win," said Dempsey.

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Johnstownbridge manager Luke Dempsey bumps fists with referee Billy O'Connell. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnstownbridge manager Luke Dempsey bumps fists with referee Billy O'Connell. Photo: Sportsfile

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Johnstownbridge manager Luke Dempsey bumps fists with referee Billy O'Connell. Photo: Sportsfile

 

And he hopes to have more options available for that clash with St Laurence's in a fortnight.

"Seán (Hurley) is only back from a year and a half out with a hip and is only tentatively coming back.

"We're delighted to get him back, there might have been a bit of rustiness but today he was a great help, and he's a great asset. And Daniel Flynn if he is ok, will be a great asset because it is a real country club and it's such a small panel if you are missing anyone (it's difficult)."

SCORERS - Sarsfields: S Doyle 1-4; C Hartley 1-3 (0-1m); A Smith 0-3 (0-1m); B McDonnell 0-2; D Ryan, G White ('45'), B Coffey 1f), R Cahill, C Costigan 0-1 each. Johnstownbridge: S Doran 0-4 (2f); P Cribbin 0-2; M McCarthy, S Hurley (1m), C McNally, N Vaughan 0-1 each.

Sarsfields - P O'Sullivan; C Byrne, S Ryan, T Aspell; D Ryan, C Kavanagh, C Hartley; M Byrne, G White; B Coffey, R Cahill, B McDonnell; B McCormack, S Doyle, A Smith. Subs: C Costigan for McCormack (36), C Hartnett for Smith (48).   

Johnstownbridge - I Farrell; J O'Connor, S McNally, N Vaughan; J Higgins, K Cribbin, S Flanagan; L Flynn, P Cribbin; E O'Donoghue, S Doran, G Doran; M McCarthy, S Flynn, C McNally. Subs: S Hurley for G Doran (20), K McNally for Higgins (38).

Ref - B O'Connell

Irish Independent