Joe Mallon SFC round three
This game was predicted as a foregone conclusion as Sarsfields looked to get back on track following a fairly comprehensive defeat to Celbridge a fortnight ago, but the five-point win over Castledermot may prompt more questions than answers as the reigning county champions stuttered over the line a rather strange game.
They led by eight points during the second half before allowing Castledermot back into the game late on, and the nature in which their defence was opened up by runners from the wings will be a serious worry for John Crofton and his management team as they now prepare for a county quarter-final.
This game looked as good as over after just nine minutes of action as Sarsfields sauntered into a five-point lead with consummate ease, but the standard of their play dropped off a cliff from that point until the end of the half. The fact that they scored six points in the opening nine minutes and just two for the remainder of the opening period was indicative of their display, and whatever atmosphere that was in the stand during the opening stages was sucked right out like a vacuum.
That being said, the Sash looked like the county champions they are in those opening exchanges as every pass went to chest, every shot split the posts and they generally did the things that we've come to expect from them over the last couple of years. Ben McCormack was especially lively during the opening minutes, looking razor sharp and menacing as he cut into the Castledermot defence with power and pace. He angled over the opening score of the game with a fine effort after cutting in from the left after just a minute, and Sarsfields added a second soon after following a rather bizarre passage of play. Alan Smith screwed a long range shot high into the air that dropped well short, but the full-forward followed his miscued effort in, kept it in play and it was worked out to Ray Cahill who floated it over from 40 metres out.
McCormack then added another point before Gavin Farrell opened Castledermot's account in the fifth minute with a close range effort following a fine run. The hard-working Caoimghin McDonnell responded with a fabulous long range point, before Smith got his first of the day with a tidy score from a tight angle. Dan Nea also got off the mark as Sarsfields surged 0-6 to 0-1 clear, and they looked home and hosed at this point. Farrell was Castledermot's chief threat going forward, and it was the midfielder who got their second from play in the 13th minute.
The Sash were looking lively in attack still however, and their next two scores were full of class. Firstly, McDonnell threaded a superb bass through the eye of a needle into McCormack to allow his to fist the ball over, before Nea showed exceptional vision to pick out Con Kavanagh with a pass from the left wing for the Kildare panelist to score.
Castledermot were gifted a lifeline when referee Owen Murphy awarded them a rather dubious looking penalty for an apparent footblock on Emmet O'Keefe, but David Keating slammed the resultant spot-kick off the crossbar and it was cleared away to safety. The south Kildare club did finish the half with the final score as Paddy Whelan somehow managed to point the ball when well surrounded by Sarsfields defenders close to goal, meaning the sides went into the half-time break with the reigning champions leading by 0-8 to 0-3.
Sarsfields didn't look much better in the opening exchanges of the second half as their play continued to be quite fractured and without any real tempo to it, and for a brief few minutes it looked as if Castledermot might work their way into the game. Indeed there was one point in the second half when the blues closed the gap to a single point, but Sarsfields were able to bag two crucial goals to fight against the tide of their opponents waves of attack.
Paddy Whelan ensured the new half got off to a stunning start when he scored one of the goals of the championship as he gathered the ball around halfway up the pitch, ran down the left touchline while holding off his man before cutting inside and flicking a low effort in off the far post of Seán Dempsey's post. Farrell followed up with his third point of the afternoon thanks to a finely struck score from the right wing, but that was really as good as it got for Damien Hendy's men as Sarsfields settled back down.
Had they not got the goal it could have been more difficult, but it was made through shear hard work and no little skill as Cahill exchanged a one-two with Cian Costigan and then fired low into the back of Paul Murphy's net. A point from Ronan Fitzgibbon soon followed, before Sarsfields netted their second goal midway through the half as McCormack and Nea exchanged passes, and it was the former who powered through on goal to rattle the back of the net at the Kilcullen End.
It was 2-9 to 1-4 at this stage and it looked like game over, but the Sarsfields defence was caught napping as substitute Anthony Lawlor had all the time in the world 12 metres from goal to slide in a second major for Castledermot, further adding to the tension in the Sash ranks. A five minute spell where Seán Dempsey fired over a free and both Smith and Barry Coffey added points looked to have steadied the ship for John Crofton's men as they led by eight points with just three minutes to play, but Castledermot came back at them again.
A David Dooley goal at the end of a fine team move gave them a glimmer of hope, and when O'Keefe added another point to their tally it looked like an unlikely comeback might be in the offing, but despite a few nervy moments the Sash held on and Declan McKenna kicked a late score to ease the pressure and help them over the line.
Scorers for Sarsfields: B McCormack 1-3, R Cahill 1-1, A Smith 0-2, C McDonnell, S Dempsey(1f), R Fitzgibbon, C Kavanagh, D McKenna, D Nea, and B Coffey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Castledermot: P Whelan 1-1, G Farrell 0-3, A Lawlor and D Dooley 1-0 each, E O'Keefe 0-1.
S Dempsey; S Lawlor(C Scanlon 48mins), S Ryan, D McDonnell; C McConnell, G White(C Costigan 22mins), D Hartley(C McInerney Aspell 45mins); C McDonnell, C Kavanagh; B McCormack, R Cahill, R Fitzgibbon(B Coffey 45mins); D Nea(R Confrey 50mins), E O'Connor, A Smith(D McKenna 57mins).
P Murphy; B Kelly, B Nolan, T Murphy; L Cosgrave(A Lawlor 51mins), P Murphy(O Doherty 58mins), B Nolan; P Whelan, G Farrell; A Murphy, D Keating, J Mahon(D Dooley 50mins); E O'Keefe, F O'Gorman, G Keating(G Hendy 55mins).
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