Sars must build from the back, says Earley

KILDARE football champions Sarsfields must get the very best from their defenders if they are to win Sunday’s AIB Leinster club final in Navan.

Club chairman Dermot Earley, the former Roscommon star, admits that their team faces a huge challenge against Dublin side Kilmacud Crokes, based on how impressively Crokes beat Rhode in last weekend’s replay in Newbridge. Midfield, too, will be crucial he says, where his son Dermot forms a strong pairing with county team-mate Alan Barry.

En route to Sunday’s final, Sars beat former champions Éire Óg in Carlow. Their only other outing was against Louth champions Mattock Rangers. “We ran into an early lead but they came back at us before we pulled away to win by five points,” said Earley.

“I would have to say that Kilmacud deserved to win their replay against Rhode on Sunday. They won a good bit of ball in the forwards, as did Rhode, but both sets of defenders were on top at stages. They have a very strong midfield, with the two Magees (Darren and Johnny) well able to contest the ball and hold on to it. And three of their six forwards - Mark Vaughan, Ray Cosgrove and Mark Davoren - were prominent all the time.

“The lesson for us is that we are going to have to be very strong in our full-back line because of the potential of these three players. But, we are lucky that we are strong at midfield ourselves and we have a reasonable scoring potential, particularly with Morgan O’Sullivan at midfield, who has been playing terrific football.”

All of the Sarsfields players are home-produced, something which the club and Earley as chairman take particular pride in. “We have a great photo in the club taken in Croke Park in 1986. We held a coaching session up there on Saturday where we had about 200 kids and a lot of the lads who will be playing on Sunday are included in that photograph. They would have been about 10 or 11 at the time.”

To date, eight clubs in Leinster have captured the provincial title, Kilmacud Crokes among them in the 1994-95 season when, under Tommy Lyons, they went on to win the All-Ireland against Senchelstown. Interestingly, however, the only championship that has come to Kildare was won 24 years ago, by Raheen, who featured Kildare and Leinster player Pat Dunny, nowadays better known as an administrator.

Sarsfields panel member Paddy Campbell provides a link with that team through his father, who was another member of the winning side.

“If you look at the list of winners, Dublin clubs have done very well (12 titles being shared among eight teams), along with Meath and Carlow. We are the first Kildare club to qualify for two finals,” says Earley. “It would be terrific if we were able to win a title.” Their first final was against another Dublin side, Na Fianna (coached by current Dublin manager Paul Caffrey). That game was played six years ago and Sarsfields lost by a margin of six points.

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