In the end, it was a combination of their wastage of possession and resolute defending from Sarsfields which decided an absorbing game in the champions’ favour.
The city side ended the game with a wides total almost comparable to their points total – to which the impressive Pádraig Gould contributed seven points from frees and two more from play. And, he would have shared the annoyance of his team-mates at the final whistle after failing to capitalise on the possession gained at the stage late in the game when it was there to be won.
Overall, while Sarsfields needed a convincing team display to emerge victorious, they had reason to be particularly grateful to goal-scorers Cian McCarthy and Michael Cussen. While they had the opening score from midfielder Eanna Martin after just 20 seconds, Na Piarsaigh – with Gould to the forefront – started better to lead 0-5 to 0-2 after 10 minutes.
But, in a minute Cian McCarthy had the ball in the net after making a strong run down the middle and almost as quickly, Cussen goaled after getting a break at the edge of the square (and dodging the attentions of Sean Óg Ó hAilpín who had been moved to the right corner to mark him).
Effectively, these scores set up the Sarsfields victory, because of the confidence it gave them and, in the real terms, the cushion it provided them in the second-half when the margin in their favour was minimal at stages. And, just as Gould’s free-taking was so vital to the city side, so was Cian McCarthy’s facility to once more inspire Sars with scores from placed balls (including two sideline cuts) and general play.
To the credit of Na Piarsaigh, they were not unduly upset by the concession of the goals and were composed in defence where Robert Healy excelled at right half-back and John Gardiner was consistent on the other wing to the extent that he never allowed Wexford senior Eoin Quigley to make an impact.
The net result was that the second quarter was very closely contested, with Sarsfields (who over-indulged in short-passing at times) having just a point advantage at the break, 2-7 to 0-12.
The second-half developed into a very tight contest, with little separating the sides, other than on the scoreboard. The difference was two points at the three-quarters stage before substitute William Kearney pointed for Sars shortly after being introduced and Cussen put over a good score after sending Ó hAilpín the wrong way.
However, a Gould free, quickly followed by a score from substitute Cairbre Ó Caireallain had the deficit back down to two points again with seven minutes of normal time remaining. And, while Na Piarsaigh were getting enough ball up front to save the game, they just hadn’t the necessary penetration to achieve a recovery.
Cian McCarthy scored again in the 57th minute before Gould, who had earlier missed a great chance of a score, blew the ball over the bar when he dashed in from the left flank. Understandably, Sarsfields were relieved to hear John Sexton’s full-time whistle.
Scorers for Sarsfields: C. McCarthy 1-6 (0-2 sideline, 0-4 frees); M. Cussen 1-1; E. Martin 0-3; R. O’Driscoll 0-2; D. Roche and W. Kearney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: P. Gould 0-9 (0-7 frees); K. Buckley and S. Duggan 0-2 each; R. Healy, J. Egan, A. Dennehy, S. Glasgow and C. Ó Caireallain 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A. Kennedy; D. Kenneally, J. Barry, C. O’Sullivan; G. O’Kelly Lynch, R. Ryan, D. Kearney; E. Martin, D. Roche; E. Quigley, C. McCarthy, G. O’Loughlin; R. O’Driscoll, K. Murphy, M. Cussen. Subs: W. Kearney for O’Loughlin (36); T. Óg Murphy for O’Driscoll (48); E. O’Sullivan for Murphy (51).
NA PIARSAIGH: A. Keating; S. Óg Ó hAilpin, E. Moynihan, D. Mannix; R. Healy, C. Joyce, J. Gardiner; J. Egan, A. Brady, K. Buckley, S. Glasgow, C. Buckley; P. Gould; S. Duggan, A. Dennehy.
Subs: C. Ó Caireallain for Glasgow (51).
Referee: John Sexton (Ballyhea).