Tony Donohue Trophies U21 A Football Championship semi-final:
Naas will be hoping to secure their second championship title in three years in the under 21 grade after they edged their way past Sarsfields in a feisty affair on Sunday evening in Hawkfield. It wasn’t the most open and free-flowing affair, but there was plenty of excitement and some great football played in a game that remained in the melting pot right until the end. Sarsfields will be kicking themselves after wasting a clutch of chances in the final 10 minutes when they were looking to claw themselves back into the game, with the men in green kicking four wides in a row when they trailed by just three points.
It was Naas who showed the greater composure as they went into game management mode during the final quarter, with numerous players going down with injury and various stoppages helping disrupt Sarsfields’ revival. When the excellent James Burke cantered through the middle to kick his side into a four-point lead at the beginning of stoppage time it was clear that this would be Naas’ day, and the County Town side will now meet Clane in the final. It is the next strand of a growing rivalry which has seen many of these players compete against each other in the 2016 and 2018 minor championship finals, both of which were won by Naas.
In the end it was a 17th minute goal from county hurler Shane Ryan which proved pivotal as Sarsfields could never pull back the deficit after that, with Naas always leading from the moment they stepped ahead in the 10th minute.
A tentative opening 10 minutes witnessed no action on the scoreboard, but the deadlock was eventually broken when David Shaw broke down the wing and picked out Tom Browne with an excellent crossfield pass, with this year’s Kildare minor star flicking over a point from close range.
The lively Shane Ryan doubled the Naas lead when he skipped in from the left wing and smashed over a point, before a fine long range effort from midfielder Eoin Archbold powered Naas into a three-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
Sarsfields got their much-needed opening score on 15 minutes when Karl Hartley stroked over a point from a close range free, but the majority of their attacks were being broken up by some excellent Naas defending.
The gamebreaker came two minutes later when Ryan pounced on some hesitant Sarsfields defending to slip inside and find the net, registering his fifth goal in three championship games. Sarsfields offered a bit more bite up front after that, with Conor Hartley impressively swinging over a point from the right and then he landed another from distance as the lead was trimmed to just three points.
Naas kicked back however, and a fine point from long range from James Burke settled them once again, before Dallan Gallagher split the posts to raise another white flag. Once again Sarsfields responded by grabbing the next two points of the tie, with the Hartleys once again doing their bit for the cause as Conor knocked over a point from play and Karl slotted a free. Ryan and Hartley would trade scores before the interval to ensure matters remained finely balanced, but the former’s goal was still decisive as Naas led by 1-6 to 0-6.
The second half was a much more cagey affair as there was just five points scored over the 36 minutes of football, but that suited Naas just perfectly. There wasn’t a score from open play until the final minute of normal time, with just a couple of points from frees being scored at either end by Luke Griffin and Hartley.
The Sash poured forward late in the game to try and engineer a few scores to energise their challenge, but Naas held out well and their opponents suffered some jitters on front of the posts. Burke landed the final blow when powering through to kick the last score of the game, ensuring Naas are back in the final after last winning the U21 title in 2016.
Scorers for Naas: S Ryan 1-2, L Griffin(2f) and J Burke 0-2 each, E Archbold, D Gallagher and T Browne 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sarsfields: K Hartley 0-5f, C Hartley 0-3.
Luke Mullins; Brian Stynes, Conor McCarthy, Eamonn Dunne; Adam Cronin, Eoin Archbold, Eoghan Prizeman; James Burke, Sean Cullen; Tom Browne, Luke Griffin, David Shaw; Dallan Gallagher, Shane Ryan, Ben Blackburne.
Subs used: Daragh Kirwan for Ryan 40mins, Alex Beirne for Browne 46mins, Simon Leacy for Dunne 60mins, Mikey Kenny for Beirne BC 62mins.
Josh Morgan; David Shalvey; Eoin Leavy, Eoin O'Connor; Adam Donohoe, Colm Hartnett, Niall O'Connor; Dave Marnell, Shea Ryan; Darragh Ryan, Conor Hartley, Brian McDonnell; Karl Hartley, Conan Hayes, Tony Keogh.
Subs used: Shane Doyle for Hayes HT, Cian McQuillan for Keogh 40mins, Billy Campbell for McDonnell 45mins.
If you have a story or want to send photos or videos to us please contact the KildareNow editorial team. via our Facebook, via our email at [email protected] or on 045 409350 during office hours.