Newtownshandrum 0-29 Sarsfields 0-27 (AET): Newtownshandrum rolled back the years in Fitzgerald Park, Fermoy yesterday, sending favourites and current champions Sarsfields down the route of the losers’ rounds of the Cork SHC after this epic extra-time first round victory.
It was a well-deserved win for the north Cork side, who made it a double for their locality, following Ballyhea’s comprehensive victory earlier yesterday at the same venue over Blackrock.
The teams were deadlocked well into extra time, but with a replay looming, Newtown worked the winning scores - a terrific Michael Bowles shot from an acute angle nudged them into the lead, and then a typically towering effort from out the field by centre-back Conor Twomey sealed the win, sending supporters of the green and gold in the large attendance wild.
Newtown’s driving finish was in keeping with their impressive opening. Though Sars got on the score-sheet first, through Tadhg Óg Murphy and Cian McCarthy, Newtown made all the running for the rest of the first quarter, hitting six unanswered points to give themselves a four-point lead over the champions, and they never lost that momentum.
The key man in this period for the winners was centre-back Twomey, who found his range with a free, a 65 and a blast from his own half to help Newtown into a 0-7 to 0-3 lead. Sars rallied, with McCarthy showing his accuracy from frees to cut the deficit to two, but another scoring burst, of five points, helped Newtown push out to a 0-11 to 0-6 lead, with Ryan Clifford and Cathal Naughton catching the eye. They added two more points before the break, with a McCarthy free the Sars response - 0-13 to 0-7, but the Glanmire side would have the breeze after the break.
The champions rallied in the second half, driven on by Cork midfielder Daniel Kearney and the powerful Gavin O’Loughlin. McCarthy chipped in with two more frees and O’Loughlin and Martin also found the range, making it a two-point game, but Newtown made every incursion count - Clifford and Jamie Coughlan extendingtheir lead to four with two smart points.
That established the pattern of the second half, with neither side seizing the initiative. In a game with no clear-cut goal chances, the side which conquered the breeze were always going to have an advantage, and Sars had fine points from the likes of Ray Ryan and Daniel Kearney, but Newtown responded every time, with Naughton’s pace instrumental in lifting the pressure on his defence.
With five minutes left, the north Cork men were still two up, thanks to another Clifford free, but Sars didn’t panic. First O’Loughlin knifed through for a point and then McCarthy was tasked with tying the game up from a free near the sideline, outside the Newtown ‘65’.
He converted the chance, as everyone in Fermoy expected. Nineteen points apiece and extra time
Incredibly, the teams hit 18 points in those additional twenty minutes.
With the breeze dying somewhat, Newtown outscored Sars five points to four in the first period and hit a further five points in the last ten minutes to get over the line, including a clever King point and a spectacular Coughlan effort.
Sars had heroes in sub Cormac Duggan, and Cian McCarthy, who drove their colleagues to level pegging with time almost up, but fittingly Bowles and Twomey, two of the game’s most consistent performers, had the final say.
Scorers for Newtown:
R. Clifford (0-8, 6 frees), C. Twomey (0-6, 2 frees, 1 ‘65’); J. P. King, M. Bowles (0-4 each); C. Naughton (0-3); J. Coughlan, J. Bowles (0-2 each).
Scorers for Sarsfields:
C. McCarthy (0-10, 9 frees); R. O’Driscoll, G. O’Loughlin, C. Duggan (0-3 each); D. Kearney, E. O’Sullivan (0-2 each); R. Ryan, C. O’Sullivan, E. Martin, T. Óg Murphy (0-1 each).
W. Biggane; J. O’Mahony, R. Fallon (capt), M. Ryan; J. Herlihy, C. Twomey, P J Copse; J P King, C. Naughton; R. Clifford, M. Bowles, T. O’Mahony; J. Coughlan, J. Bowles, J. Lane.
M. Thompson for Lane (17); D. Stack for Coughlan (57); Coughlan for J. Bowles (65).
A. Kennedy; T. Crowley, C. Leahy, C. O’Sullivan; W. Kearney, R. Ryan, D. Roche; D. Kearney, E. Quigley (capt); G. O’Loughlin, E. Martin, C. McCarthy; E. O’Sullivan, R. O’Driscoll, T. Og Murphy.
K. Murphy for Martin (40); C. Duggan for Murphy (50).
D. Kirwan (Eire Óg)