The fact is that having led 0-7 to 0-2 after 19 minutes, Sars were starting to struggle in the face of an admirably spirited Killeagh recovery even before they had midfielder Gavin O’Loughlin red-carded in the 43rd minute. Ten minutes later, able substitute Larry Collins had Killeagh deservedly on level terms and, for a while a replay looked the likely outcome until Cian McCarthy hit over some vital scores for the Glanmire side.
The early stages of the game were dominated by Sarsfields, who led by three points after six minutes play. They settled down to dominate in defence – where it helped that Ray Ryan was a ‘loose’ man after Mark Landers was withdrawn to play a sweeper role behind the Killeagh midfield – and they offered much more in attack.
Over the course of the opening quarter, it was noteworthy that Killeagh’s only scores came from a fourth minute Joe Deane sideline shot and a free from the former Cork star three minutes later.
Effectively, they found it hard to penetrate, all the more so since Sars won an early grip at midfield – with O’Loughlin quick to make an impact.
Additionally, they were out of luck when a 17th minute Landers penalty was well saved by ‘keeper Alan Kennedy.
Interestingly, while Sars added points in the 10th, 15th and 19th minutes, some very poor finishing (which yielded nine wides by the break) meant that their overall advantage was not being reflected on the scoreboard. And another problem was that Cork captain Kieran Murphy faded after a promising start, while Michael Cussen was making little headway on the left wing. Conversely, Cian McCarthy and Robert O’Driscoll got through some good work on the right flank.
Deane, operating at centre-forward and prominent at stages, produced Killeagh’s only other scores of the half (both from frees). However, despite O’Driscoll pointing twice, Sars had lost their grip in the ten minutes approaching half-time. Killeagh were boosted by spirited play all over the field – Landers’ deployment was starting to pay off – and by the break the margin was down to four points, 0-8 to 0-4.
Immediately following the resumption O’Loughlin pointed to stretch Sarsfields’ lead, but they were not to score again for 21 minutes. Killeagh maintained their improvement, hitting four unanswered points (starting with their first from play from Joe Budds) before Deane pointed a 45th minute free to bring the teams level for the first time. And, they were out of luck earlier on when Andy Walsh was denied a goal when his powerful shot came back into play off the crossbar.
Sarsfields inaccuracy further limited them, with the impressive Cian McCarthy hitting wides from a free around midfield and a close-in sideline shot. But, he put them back in the lead in the 52nd minute after Eoghan O’Loughlin made a good opening for Killeagh but failed to get in a shot. Confident play from Killeagh quickly had them level a second time, through Larry Collins, but, Sars generated a winning momentum with a well-struck ‘65 from substitute Pat Ryan and another McCarthy point.
And, they were assured of advancing to play either Carrigtwohill or Bride Rovers when McCarthy struck another valuable score after Budds had given Killeagh fresh hopes of saving the game with a late point.
Scorers for Sarsfields: R O’Driscoll, 0-4 (3f); C McCarthy, 0-3; K Murphy, G O’Loughlin, 0-2; M Cussen, P Ryan (‘65) 0-1 each.
Killeagh: J Deane, 0-7 (5f, 1‘65, 1s/l); J Budds, 0-2; M Landers, L Collins, 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A Kennedy; D Kennedy, J Barry, C O’Sullivan; D Roche, R Ryan, C Leahy; T Óg Murphy, G O’Loughlin; C McCarthy, D Kearney, M Cussen; R O’Driscoll, K Murphy, E O’Sullivan.
Subs: P Ryan for T Óg Murphy (48); T Óg Murphy for K Murphy (55).
KILLEAGH: B Rochford; P McCarthy, C Fogarty, P McGrath; P O’Brien, C Fogarty, B Collins; M Landers, K Lane; B Barry, J Deane, J Budds; S Long, A Walsh, E O’Loughlin.
Subs: L Collins for Long (20); J O’Connor for O’Loughlin (ht).
Referee: D O’Leary (Cloughduv).