Adominant second-half performance from Carlow football champions Éire Óg, in which they outscored visitors Sarsfields of Kildare by 0-7 to 0-1 at Netwatch Cullen Park yesterday, saw the five-time Leinster Club winners through to a Leinster semi-final meeting away to Portlaoise.
Before an attendance of 3,500 this was an absorbing game of high quality football in which there was nothing to choose between the two sides in a hugely entertaining opening half.
After Chris Blake had shot two early pointed frees for the home side, ‘The Sash’ then took command to hit five unanswered points — a Caomhín McDonnell free, followed by the game’s first score from play by Barry Coffey, quickly supplemented by white flags from Cian Costigan, Alan Smith, and Conor Hartley.
Éire Óg looked to be in trouble at that stage but the home side forced their way back into the game with a well-taken point from full forward Ross Dunphy on 16 minutes before Chris Blake pointed a free.
In the 18th minute the game turned in the Carlow champions’ favour. A kick-out by Sarsfields goalie Paddy O’Sullivan was met in midfield by the fist of Seán Gannon, the ball was helped on by Ross Dunphy into the possession of Jordan Morrissey and the Éire Óg man cut inside his man to pick his spot low to O’Sullivan’s right.
The half-time score of 1-5 to 0-8 was a fair reflection of the trend of play.
After the break, Éire Óg took immediate control, with a point from play by Chris Blake followed by Cormac Mullins kicking a brace of superb points also from open play.
Sarsfields, who have yet to win a Leinster Club senior crown, were unable to match the clever inter-play of their opponents, who now sensed that the game was theirs for the taking.
On 43 minutes Ray Cahill, the visitors’ full-forward, pointed a close-in free to cut the gap to two points, which was to be his side’s only score of the half.
Éire Óg then missed a number of scorable frees which appeared to provide Sarsfields with a lifeline. But the dominance of the Carlow champions told eventually, with quick points from play by Darragh O’Brien, Jordan Morrissey, and Seán Gannon easing them five in front, before substitute Niall Quinlan kicked a magnificent point from a sideline kick to rub salt into the Sarsfields wounds.
Following that score an altercation between Quinlan and Sarsfields full-back and captain Seán Campbell led to a straight red card for the The Sash No 3 while Quinlan was black-carded. That was on 57 minutes.
A jubilant Éire Óg manager Joe Murphy said it was great to have won “a top-quality match”. Referring to Sarsfields’ first-half period of superiority he said: “We knew they would have their moments but we restructured things and finished the half the stronger. They (Sarsfields) scored a lot of good points with very little wides.”
The manager singled out Darragh O’Brien’s point from play to put his side three points clear in the second half as being vital as Éire Óg pushed on from there.
Scorers for Éire Óg: C Blake 0-5, 0-4 frees, J Morrissey 1-1, C Mullins 0-2, R Dunphy, D O’Brien, S Gannon, N Quinlan (line ball) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sarsfields: C McDonnell 0-2, frees, B Coffey 0-2, A Smith, C Costigan, C Kavanagh, C Hartley, R Cahll 0-1 each.
ÉIRE ÓG: R Keating; R Mahon, M Fitzgerald, B Kavanagh; J Lowry, M Furey, P McElligott; J Morrissey, C Mullins; S Gannon, D O’Brien, E Ruth; C Blake, R Dunphy, C Hulton.
Subs; D Hayden for Hulton (42); N Quinlan for Mullins (50); R Denieffe for Quinlan (black card) (57).
SARSFIELDS: P O’Sullivan; C McConnell, S Campbell, T Aspell; C Kavanagh,C McEnerney Aspell, D Ryan; C Costigan, C McDonnell; S Ryan, D McKenna, C Hartley; C Coffey, R Cahill, A Smith.
Subs: S Doyle for Kavanagh (40); B McDonnell for C McConnell (46); K Hartley for Cahill (52); D Shalvey for Ryan (52); C Byrne for McKenna (57).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).