Sars hold Ballinhassig’s late surge

THE spoils went Sarsfields’ way, thanks to hitting a purple patch in the opening quarter, but Ballinhassig left Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday with their pride intact after an admirable second-half recovery.

Indeed, they would have been celebrating victory in an absorbing Cork SHC contest but for the fact that Martin Coleman’s goal attempt four and a half minutes into injury time was deflected over the bar.

And, they could mainly thank outstanding full-forward Fintan O’Leary for being in that situation. His goals in the 39th and 51st minutes revitalised a strengthening challenge which marked a dramatic turn-around in fortunes from their 2-7 to 0-3 interval deficit.

Quickly settling and getting four unanswered points in nine minutes, Sarsfields got their first big boost when Garvan McCarthy goaled from a powerful shot which Martin Coleman was powerless to stop. That was in the 11th minute and five minutes later they were leading 1-7 to 0-2, with O’Leary hitting the second of the Ballinhassig points and standing out as their most promising forward. Additionally, team captain Brendan Lombard was exerting a big influence at centre-back while Darren Dineen was also putting in a huge effort at centre-forward.

Their problem was that Sarsfields were able to get the maximum from their team effort. The defence was quite solid under pressure, Pat Ryan was strong in general play at midfield as well as accurate in his free-taking and McCarthy and John Murphy gave leadership in an attack in which team captain Kieran Murphy was often prominent at centre-forward.

Interestingly, their scoring almost dried up for the last ten minutes of the half, during which Ballinhassig increased their effort but were still frustrated in a their attacking moves.

And, that included a failed attempt at a goal by Coleman from a 23rd minute free from the 20 metre line.

Then Sars produced a second goal out of the blue through Kieran Murphy in the 29th minute, sending them in at half time ten points ahead.

On the resumption, Martin Coleman was at centre-forward for Ballinhassig (in place of Dineen) and Matthew Collins took over between the posts. Now benefiting from the wind, their hard work was finally rewarded with a goal from O’Leary after nine minutes. And, while forward weaknesses were exposed as they ran up a further five wides in a short period of time, to their credit they were competing on much more even terms, tightening up especially in defence. Then came O’Leary’s second goal, nine minutes from the end of normal time, and the game exploded into life.

It still left a three points gap, until it was extended by a Ryan free three minutes later, which followed a lost opportunity for O’Leary when he failed to win possession from a Coleman pass.

Nevertheless, the momentum was now with Ballinhassig, with Brendan Lombard and James Ahern driving them on from half-back and O’Leary a huge threat any time he challenged for the ball.

Pointed frees from Coleman in the 55th and 56th minute (after he again tried for a goal) left only two points between the sides before the game’s final act of drama decided the outcome. O’Leary was given the advantage by able referee Colm Lyons only to see his shot at goal stopped by substitute Ray Ryan. However, a penalty was then awarded (in the 65th minute) and frustratingly for Coleman and Ballinhassig supporters, he again failed to better goalkeeper Alan Kennedy and his supporting backs.

Scorers: Sarsfields: P. Ryan 0-5 frees; G. McCarthy and K. Murphy 1-0 each; J. Murphy 0-2; C. McCarthy and T. Óg Murphy 0-1 each.

Ballinhassig scorers: F. O’Leary 2-3; M. Coleman 0-3 frees; D. O’Sullivan and P. Coomey 0-1 each.

SARSFIELDS: A. Kennedy; G. O’Kelly-Lynch, J. Barry, C. O’Sullivan; D. Kennelly, C. Leahy, B. McCarthy; P. Ryan, D. Kearney; J. Murphy, K. Murphy (capt..) R. Murphy; C. McCarthy, G. McCarthy, T. Óg Murphy.

Subs: R. Ryan for R. Murphy (injured 31st minute); W. Kearney for G. McCarthy (36th); R. O’Driscoll for C. McCarthy (62nd).

BALLINHASSIG: M. Coleman; S. McCarthy, B. O’Sullivan, B. Coleman; J. Ahern, B. Lombard (capt.), M. Ahern; S. Dineen, S. McCarthy; D. O’Callaghan, D. Dineen, P. Lombard; P. O’Sullivan, F. O’Leary, D. O’Sullivan.

Subs: P. Coomey for P. Lombard (26th minute); M. Collins for D. Dineen (second half); D. Duggan for P. O’Sullivan (42nd); M. Desmond for J. Ahern (60th).

Referee: Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers).

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