In a dramatic start to the game, Sarsfields’ Lar Corbett, and Nenagh’s Billy Heffernan, were red-carded after a flare up in the Nenagh goal area in the 5th minute which involved several players from both sides.
After consulting with his umpires, referee Fergal Horgan showed both players red-cards.
Corbett’s loss was a huge blow to the title holders who never subsequently settled into their stride and who now find themselves involved in a battle to avoid relegation.
Nenagh’s victory was fully deserved and might have been by a bigger margin but for three excellent saves from Sarsfields custodian, Patrick McCormack who denied Paddy Murphy twice, and Sean Geaney in the first half.
At half-time the sides were level 0-6 each, but Sarsfields were to have the aid of the breeze in the second half. But it was Nenagh who set the pace, veteran Kevin Tucker (2) and Paddy Murphy shooting points inside four minutes.
Sarsfields recovered and were only one point behind (0-10 to 0-11) at the start of the last quarter, but Nenagh hit a purple patch with scores from Tucker (2) and Tommy Heffernan (2) to open up a five point lead with six minutes remaining.
Again Sarsfields came at them, but the lack of scoring power was apparent. Though Stephen Cahill and Pa Bourke had late points, the goal they needed never looked like coming and victory deservedly went to Nenagh.
It was a great win for Éire Óg who had outstanding performances from Paddy Murphy and Tommy Heffernan in attack, but whose defence really took the honours, bottling up a highly rated Sarsfields attack. John Brennan, Noel Moloney and Hugh Moloney excelled, with the accurate Kevin Tucker also making a huge contribution to the win.
It has been a disastrous year for Sarsfields.
After the highs of last season they have tamely surrendered their divisional, county, and Munster titles and now find themselves involved in the Ó Riain Cup, with the spectre of relegation hanging over them. The red-carding of Corbett was a major blow to them but despite the heroic efforts of Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher, Pa Bourke, Stephen Cahill, Ronan Maher, and Patrick McCormack in goal, they fell short of the standard required to win.
ÉIRE ÓG, NENAGH: M McNamara; M Flannery, N Moloney, J Brennan; D Quinn, H Moloney, Billy Heffernan; Barry Heffernan, K Tucker(0-7); S Geaney(0-1), M Heffernan, T Heffernan(0-4); K Gleeson(0-1), P Murphy(0-2), B Quinn.
Sub: D Quinn for Flannery.
SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; D Maher, K O’Gorman, B O’Dwyer; R Maher, D Kennedy, M Cahill; M Gleeson, P Maher; S Cahill (0-3), M Russell, L Corbett; A McCormack, P Bourke (0-8), M O Brien (0-1). Subs: P Dunne for O Gorman; J Maher for Russell; C Treacy for O Brien.
Referee: F Horgan, Knockavilla Kickhams