Joe Mallon SFC quarter-final
Moorefield were beaten by their bitter rivals 11 months ago in the county final, but they overturned their recent poor record against Sarsfields on Saturday afternoon as they hung on for a nervy three-point win to knock the two-in-a-row reigning champions out of the championship.
It really should never have been this tight, but Sarsfields showed some true metal to battle back from a 2-8 to 0-3 disadvantage midway through the second half, though their failure to register a single point from play until the 58th minute was ultimately the main reason for their undoing. Moorefield, who had lost their last two championship meetings with their crosstown rivals, will now be looked on as massive contenders for the Dermot Burke trophy once again this year.
These Newbridge derbies always produce a huge amount of talk around the town in the days leading up to the game, and there was still plenty to be discussed right up until the ball was thrown in due to the team selections, most notably Moorefield's. Ryan Houlihan, Ronan Sweeney, Aaron Mullins and Adam Tyrrell were all listed to start on the program, though all four were absent when the sides took to the field as Mark Dempsey, Cian O'Connor, David Whyte and Niall Hurley-Lynch came in to replace them.
It wasn't long before Ross Glavin called upon Tyrrell however, with the 2016 Kildare county panelist replacing Cian O'Connor in the 22nd minute after he came perilously close to receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Shea Ryan.
For Sarsfields, they were able to welcome former county title winning captain Sean Campbell back into their side, along with Matty Byrne who missed out in their third round win over Castledermot.
With so much on the line, and conditions not being the best, it was no surprise that this game was a tight, cagey and somewhat disappointing affair during the opening half hour. Moorefield were much the better team in attack, with Sarsfields remaining heavily reliant on the free-taking of Ray Cahill. It was 0-3 apiece after a lively opening eight minutes to the game as Mark Murray and Cahill swapped early frees, while Cian O'Connor and Eddie Heavey also struck excellent point for the Moores into the Hill End where their fans had gathered. Cahill was keeping the Sash in touch, but his eighth minute free was the last time they scored in the entire first half. They almost snatched an unlikely goal when Ciaran McInerney Aspell found Ben McCormack in a pocket of space with an exquisite eye of the needle ball, but Moorefield 'keeper Tom Kinsella blocked his effort superbly.
It was one way traffic for the remainder of the half however, with last year's beaten finalists beginning to click up front as they continually improved. Some fine work by Eanna O'Connor set up Heavey for a good point, before the Kerry native then scored one himself from a free. Tyrrell was the instigator of Moorefield's goal less than two minutes after his introduction as his shot from a free dropped short, and Niall Hurley-Lynch beat Sean Campblell to the ball before rolling it in off the ground. He rounded off the first half scoring by curling over a sumptuous point on the stroke of half-time, leaving Moorefield well in the driving seat with a 1-6 to 0-3 advantage.
Everyone in the county grounds in Newbridge could sense that Sarsfields would need a storming start to the second half if they were to avoid crashing out of the championship early, but they continued on in the same vein as the first period, looking short on ideas in attack and being drowned out by a hungry Moorefield defence. There was little in the way of scoring in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but, crucially it was Moorefield who were proving clinical on front of goal. Tyrrell landed an impressive point from long range to open his own personal account, before splitting the posts with another fine effort a few minutes later.
Roli Sweeney was introduced off the bench without too many people noticing, but the Kildare selector's first involvement was to claim a Sean Dempsey kickout, run towards goal and feed the ball to Heavey who then found O'Connor and he nestled the ball in the back of Dempsey's net. With the Moores leading by 2-8 to 0-3 with 20 minutes remaining it looked like it was game over, but Sarsfields proved that they had another kick in them yet.
They kicked off a purple patch by registering points through Cahill and Nea from frees, before another free from Cahill narrowed the gap to eight points. Their star man then turned in a goal when he claimed a high ball from Barry Coffey on the edge of the square, leaving it all to play for with 12 minutes of normal time left on the clock.
It looked like Moorefield had stemmed the tide somewhat when O'Connor and substitute Ryan Houlihan knocked over points, but Sarsfields were riding a wave of momentum going into the home stretch. Cahill was irrepressible on frees during the run in, knocking over four points in the final 10 minutes, while Ben McCormack scored their only point from play when he struck with three minutes left on the clock.
Sarsfields huffed and puffed, but when Tyrrell curled over a point from the left wing in the 64th minute it signalled the end of Sarsfields' challenge, and their title defence.
Scorers for Moorefield: E O'Connor 1-2(2f), N Hurley-Lynch 1-1, A Tyrrell 0-3(2f), E Heavey 0-2, R Houlihan, C O'Connor and M Murray(1f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sarsfields: R Cahill 1-9(9f), D Nea(1f) and B McCormack 0-1 each.
T Kinsella; L Callaghan(R Houlihan 46mins), L Healy, S Healy(S Dempsey 57mins); J Murray, K Murnaghan, M Dempsey; D Flynn, A Masterson; C O'Connor(A Tyrrell 23mins), E Heavey, D Whyte; E O'Connor(A Mullins blood sub 51-55 mins), N Hurley-Lynch, M Murray(R Sweeney 40mins).
S Dempsey; D Hartley, S Campbell(C Scanlon HT), D McDonnell; C McConnell, S Ryan, C McInerney Aspell ; C McDonnell(G White 36mins), M Byrne; B McCormack, R Cahill, C Kavanagh(C Costigan 39mins); D Nea(R Confrey 46mins), B Coffey, A Smith(D McKenna 42mins).
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