Experience shows for champions

Last week, as this final drew near, questions exercised the minds of both sets of supporters. Sarsfields’ fans wondered if they could continue the winning pattern established since 2008 of a championship victory every second year, writes Donal O'Grady.

Experience shows for champions

Glen Rovers followers, starved of a win for the past 25 years and with only two final appearances in the interim, hoped that it would be third time lucky.

For conclusions, they looked at the form guide.

Sars, who suffered a first round loss, played well in their previous two games and seemed to have more momentum entering the final. The Riverstown outfit’s more balanced 15 would use the experience of recent victories to face down the expected challenge of the city side.

The Glen’s 25-year famine meant they were going into the game with low expectations and little pressure. There was a sense that their hunger to return to this level would be a significant factor. And they had a marquee forward in Pat Horgan who could carry the day.

The questions were answered very early in the game as Sars dominated from beginning to end in a one-sided, hugely disappointing final.

Searching for answers for the level of the performance they displayed, the Glen will look back at their tough semi-final replay a week ago, having to play three weeks in a row and the emotional and physical energy spent in that process.

Wherever the explanation lies, Sars work rate, enthusiasm, skill, first touch and team work was far superior to their opponents. By the seventh minute, this game was over. Sars full-forward Kieran Murphy was released by his colleague Eoin O’Sullivan and he ran through, held the ball long enough to draw Glen corner back David Dooling and set up captain Tadhg Óg Murphy, who picked his spot for the crucial opening goal.

It was a clever forward move and demonstrated the difference between the teams. Sars used the ball well in attack, cleverly recycling possession when the need arose. Allied to this, they closed quickly on their opponents when they lost the sliotar, making it difficult for the Glen defenders to find colleagues further forward.

The Glen simply didn’t have the same class up front but it was the deficiency in the work rate department that will be questioned most by their supporters.

The Sars defence coped comfortably with the Glen attacking sextet in general play and, crucially, their defenders were able to work the ball out at will as the required tackling, intensity and closing-down ferocity never materialised from the Blackpool outfit.

All over the field, the men from Riverstown were busy supporting each other, with their forwards funnelling back quickly and their defenders covering for each other from the throw-in.

That will be a hammer blow to the Glen this morning when they come to terms with how they lost this game. The Glen needed to be ultra competitive from the off, and started Horgan at top of the right, where he was marked by inter-county colleague Conor O’Sullivan, in O’Sullivan’s favourite position.

Early on, a few good deliveries were sent into the full-forward position resulting in only one good point in the fifth minute by Conor Dorris. But they needed big scores from the throw in, and Horgan to deliver, but he was wide with three free attempts in the first 20 minutes.

These missed scores were blows to the team both psychologically and on the scoreboard.

It allowed Sars grow and their half-back line and midfield held the whip hand. Gavin O’Loughlin, lining out at centre-half forward, knocked over three fine points from long range and Cian McCarthy had four more from placed balls to put them 10 points up and into an unassailable lead by half-time.

The Glen management made some changes at half time but the second half was a mirror image of the first. Kieran Murphy displayed great positional sense by getting behind his marker to take a high centre and plunder their second goal with 10 minutes left, but it was academic at that stage.

Sars’ scoring capacity wasn’t matched by Glen Rovers, with only one forward scoring from play in the entire game. It was a sad day for this proud club but they were well beaten by a vastly superior team.

Sars were in a different class. With four county titles since 2008, they have bigger fish to fry now. Each previous county title was followed with a disappointing Munster club campaign. One could argue that this is now their best balanced team of the four, with Daniel Roche and William Kearney, somewhat nomadic on previous teams, finding their niche in defence.

Ground conditions have been very good up to now too, and if there is no major deterioration throughout the Munster club campaign it will suit their style.

Cork clubs need to be challenging for provincial and national honours once more. The onus is now on the Riverstown club to take on this challenge.

They will have learned from previous defeats and they are certainly equal to what’s out there.

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