Third gear enough as Moorefield canter to title

KILDARE and Leinster champions last year, Moorefield retained the first of those titles yesterday and the manner of their win suggests they will not be easily relieved of their provincial crown either.

Only four points separated these Newbridge town rivals at the end, but the gap in class on the day was far greater, with five Sarsfield points arriving after the result had long been put to bed.

“We were doing well at five points up at half-time,” said Moorefield manager Dessie Brennan. “We knew Sarsfields wouldn’t drop the heads though, and there were a lot of hard knocks out there. It was good honest stuff. It’s the club’s first two-in-a-row. We can concentrate now on winning our Leinster title again and we have beaten our biggest rivals to win the county. It’s been a good day.”

The Sarsfields-Moorefield rivalry is a fascinating one, even in an association where parish rivalries are two-a-penny. Newbridge may be a sizeable town but, so entwined are these two that they share the same green and white colours.

The traditional divide runs in a straight line separating Sars territory to the north of the town from their rivals in the south. The Bank of Ireland building in the town centre is commonly accepted as the front line.

The importance of the occasion was heightened by the presence of newly installed county manager Kieran McGeeney in the audience. There was plenty of bite to proceedings in what was a stop-start encounter but Moorefield dominated the guts of the contest and led by five at the break.

They were full value for it. Sarsfields claimed plenty of possession in the middle third but that was as far as they got, quite literally at times. Unable to work an opening in their opponent’s half, they were reduced to pot-shots from distance, only one of which dissected the posts.

Another free from Alan Smith was their lot for the first 30 minutes, but Moorefield were enjoying far more success with long balls forward, in stark contrast to Sarsfields’ laboured approach.

They could have had the title in the bag by the interval had Jason Phillips’ goal after 15 minutes not been harshly ruled out for a square ball, but it was a temporary setback. The champions found the net again four minutes after the break and this time there was no debate as to its legitimacy.

There seemed little danger at the outset, with a posse of Sarsfields players hemming a pair of opponents in on the left hand side of the Moorefield half-back line but a blur of short passes later and Ronan Sweeney was in open country and haring upfield.

Corner-forward Philip Woulfe made the final pass across the square for Paddy Murray to leap forward and palm the ball into the open net and the score had an air of finality.

To their credit, Sarsfields responded with their best spell of the match. Three points in six minutes cut the deficit to five but Moorefield stemmed the rising tide with the kind of goal that drains the hope from any pursuers.

Frank Hanniffy launched a speculative point attempt into the Sarsfields goalmouth and when goalkeeper and full-back hampered each other, the ball dropped for Phillips, who found the empty net.

Five Sarsfields points and seven minutes of injury time followed, but the celebrations were already kicking off in the Newbridge House and Neeson’s at the top end of the town.

Scorers: Moorefield: P Murray 1-5 (2f), J Philips 1-1, R Glavin 0-1, R Sweeney 0-1f, F Hanniffy 0-1. Sarsfields: G White 0-2, P Brennan 0-2 (1f), P Campbell 0-2, A Smith 0-2 (1f), M Dunne 0-1, C Dempsey 0-1, E O’Sullivan 0-1.

SARSFIELDS: G Slicker; S Usher, M McIntyre, C Duffy; N Hedderman, M Dunne, G White; D Earley, A Barry; E Freaney, M O’Sullivan, A Smith; P Brennan, C Dempsey, P Campbell.

Subs: M Browne for Feaney (35), A McLernan for Barry (52), S McKenzie-Smith for O’Sullivan (53), D Earley for Campbell (59), E O’Sullivan for Brennan (59).

MOOREFIELD: T Corley; I Lonergan, K O’Neill, P O’Flynn; K Duane, G Naughton, J Lonergan; R Glavin, D Flynn; C Kelly, R Sweeney, K Murnaghan; P Murray, J Phillips, P Woulfe.

Subs: F Hanniffy for Duane (7), M Treacy for Kelly (53), L Callaghan for Murnaghan (62), R Delaney for Woulfe (62).

Referee: J Foley (Castlemitchell).

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