Majestic Midleton’s young stars stun Sars

MIDLETON sprung a huge surprise in the Evening Echo Cork SHC first round at Carrigtwohill on Saturday when they shunted Sarsfields towards the backdoor route with an excellent success.

Sarsfields were favourites going into this game on the back of strong recent campaigns that yielded the county title in 2008 and a final placing last season, while a third of their team were on duty for the Cork senior panel in Páirc Uí Chaoimh the previous Sunday.

But Midleton showed scant regard for such reputations and with a team that was largely predicated on youth – they ended the match with eight U21’s on show – played superbly to secure a merited success.

There was a sense beforehand that Midleton were a coming force but that this was too great a challenge for their young team to surmount. However, as with the manner in which Sarsfields swept through the 2008 championship, Midleton’s youngsters elevated their hurling to a higher level and they led on the scoreboard from pillar to post.

Wing-backs Padraig O’Shea and James Nagle executed relieving clearances all day, Aidan Ryan manned the centre-back berth with distinction and behind him Declan Ryan did a superb job in nullifying the threat of Michael Cussen.

Padraig O’Keeffe and Seamus O’Farrell produced a massive shift at midfield, while in attack Sean Hennessy, Luke O’Farrell, Paul Haughney and substitute Tom Wallis shared the burden of responsibility brilliantly. O’Farrell was a real menace for the Sarsfields defence with his blistering pace and lightning touches enabling him to rifle over three fine points. It was Haughney who grabbed the game’s decisive score when he swiped a goal in the 51st minute. Wallis arced in a sideline from the left wing which Sarsfields goalkeeper Alan Kennedy fumbled and despite missing his first pull, Haughney made no mistake from close range the second time.

It was a day when too many of the Sarsfields players misfired. That was largely due to the impressive attributes that Midleton brought to the table, most pertinently in the shutout operation their defence produced. The fact that Kieran Murphy, Garvan McCarthy, Tadhg Óg Murphy and Cian McCarthy were all held scoreless from play spoke volumes for the resilience of the Midleton rearguard. There were three main reasons why Sarsfields managed to stay in contention right up until the finish. First, Cian McCarthy’s free-taking became extremely accurate as the action unfolded, second, Conor O’Sullivan was outstanding in defence with his distribution hugely intelligent and third, midfielder Gavin O’Loughlin weighed in heavily in the scoring stakes with a tremendous haul of five points from play.

The first signal that Midleton were going to offer a serious threat was established early on as they sprinted into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after only three minutes. They did not allow that tempo to drop and good deliveries forward got danger man O’Farrell into the game as he landed a brace of points to push that advantage out to 0-7 to 0-3 by the 18th minute. The lead could have been greater but for a brilliant point-blank save by Kennedy from an O’Farrell drive in the 10th minute. Sarsfields were below-par but O’Loughlin dragged them back to tie the game at 0-7 each, only for an outstanding Haughney point in the 32nd minute to edge Midleton ahead 0-8 to 0-7 in front at the break.

Any suggestions that Sarsfields would wear down their opponents in the second-half were quickly erased by Midleton. They kept battling vigorously and an impressive scoring cameo by Hennessy saw them lead 0-11 to 0-8 by the 40th minute. Sarsfields immediately trimmed the margin to one through Cussen and McCarthy but crucially could never regain parity on the scoreboard. Wallis and Kieran Mulcahy grabbed fine points, and even though Kennedy again denied O’Farrell a goal in the 47th minute, Haughney notched the vital score four minutes later.

Despite a late Sarsfields rally that generated three points by McCarthy, Midleton held out for a great win.

Scorers for Midleton: S Hennessy 0-5 (0-2f, 0-1 ‘65), P Haughney 1-1, L O’Farrell 0-3, P O’Keeffe 0-2, S O’Farrell, K Mulcahy, T Wallis 0-1 each.

Scorers for Sarsfields: C McCarthy 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘65), G O’Loughlin 0-5, M Cussen 0-2.

MIDLETON: B Behan; S Murphy, D Ryan, A Kearney; P O’Shea, A Ryan, J Nagle; S O’Farrell, P O’Keeffe; C Lehane, K Mulcahy, S Hennessy; P Barry, L O’Farrell, P Haughney.

Sub: T Wallis for Barry (32).

SARSFIELDS: A Kennedy; R Ryan, J Barry, C O’Sullivan; D Roche, C Leahy, D Kenneally; P Ryan, G O’Loughlin; G McCarthy, D Kearney, C McCarthy; K Murphy, M Cussen, T Óg Murphy.

Subs: E O’Sullivan for Cussen (blood) (5), Cussen for O’Sullivan (8), R O’Driscoll for P Ryan (38), E O’Sullivan for G McCarthy (57).

Referee: Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers).

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