A late goal from Robert O’Driscoll gave the east Cork team the impetus to get over the line, but they were pushed all the way by a dogged ‘Town side, who left it all out on the field, in the vernacular, and struck for a late, late goal to make the final seconds more interesting — though the better team certainly came away with the spoils.
Early on Sars looked sharper, with Conor O’Sullivan distributing well from the back and Daniel Kearney linking the play well at midfield. Michael Cussen and Kieran Murphy up front inter-changed regularly and troubled the ‘ ’Town defence without threatening a goal.
The teams swapped points in the opening minutes until a Cian McCarthy free gave Sars a one-point lead, 0-3 to 0-2, and Bishopstown full-back Shane O’Neill needed to be sharp on five minutes with a vital interception to deny Sars a goal chance.
Then Bishopstown came into the game, feeding the towering Denis Crowley to good effect, while All-Star nominee Patrick Cronin began to win more ball. He levelled matters with a long-distance free and then ‘Town hit three points on the trot from Brian Murray, a fine Michael Power effort from the wing and a Cronin snap shot on 15 minutes.
Cian McCarthy stopped the rot with a Sars free, only for Power to retaliate, pointing with a first-time pull near goal on a ball broken by Crowley. Gavin O’Loughlin and Cronin (free) swapped points before McCarthy reduced the deficit to two with another free, eight points to six, on 23 minutes.
Cussen then fielded a high ball and laid it off to Murphy, whose tame shot was well saved by Ken O’Halloran in the ‘Town goal. McCarthy had two more frees to cut the deficit to the minimum before the impressive Power had another point after good work by Crowley. That made it 0-9 to 0-7 at the break for the underdogs.
The scores came thick and fast on the resumption, the sides swapping seven points in the first eight minutes of the second period. Sars had points from Cian McCarthy (two), Cussen and half-time sub Tadhg Óg Murphy, while Bishopstown’s scores came from Cronin (two) and Thomas Murray.
The city side led, 0-12 to 0-11, when Eoin Quigley got a sight of goal, but the Wexford man in the Sars ranks didn’t connect well and O’Halloran saved. Sars might have equalised on 41 minutes but McCarthy fluffed the pick-up from a free and Bishopstown lifted the siege; the leveller coming five minutes later, Daniel Kearney finishing a well-worked move from a McCarthy free in the middle of the field.
The city team were now under pressure at the back, and it took a magnificent block by Shane O’Neill – without helmet – on Michael Cussen to keep them alive as the clock turned towards 50 minutes. With Daniel Kearney now getting on more and more ball in the middle of the field, it was no surprise to see the east Cork men nudge ahead on 51 minutes, again through Cian McCarthy.
The benefits of experience were now beginning to show for Sars — they held possession well and took correct options near goal. This was proven on 53 minutes, when sub Eoin O’Sullivan made ground down the left and crossed hard for the ball to be turned home by Robert O’Driscoll: goal, and a four-point lead.
At that stage of the game it was a hammer blow for the underdogs, but Bishopstown responded well. Cronin hit back with a point from range, but the writing was on the wall. Kieran Murphy pointed, and then McCarthy had yet another pointed free, giving the champions from 2008 and 2010 a five-point lead.
The game trickled out of time with Bishopstown looking for goals, but Sars packed the goalmouth successfully until deep in injury time, when ’Town sub David Hickey nudged home a goal from close range to give them a glimmer of hope.
With 30 seconds left, there were two points in it, but Eoin Quigley won the resulting puck-out for Sars, driving the ball downfield to secure the win.
Sars will now face a third Munster club campaign, and given their experience, will fancy their chances to improve on past showings.
Scorers for Bishopstown: P. Cronin 0-6 (0-2 fs); D. Hickey 1-0; M. Power 0-3; D. Crowley, G. McGlacken, T. Murray, B. Murray 0-1 each.
Subs: J. Murphy for K. O’Driscoll (45); P. Honohan for Crowley (48); D. Hickey for McGlacken (57).
Scorers for Sarsfields: C. McCarthy 0-8 (0-6 fs); R. O’Driscoll 1-1; M. Cussen 0-2; G. O’Loughlin, K. Murphy, D. Kearney, T. Og Murphy 0-1 each.
Subs: T. Óg Murphy for W. Kearney (half-time); E. O’Sullivan for D. Roche (45).
Referee: J. Sexton (Ballyhea).