Cork star Conor O’Sullivan was red-carded, along with UCC forward Barry Lawton, after a goalmouth melee and is now ruled out of next weekend’s quarter-final against Killeagh.
Referee John Sexton’s action, following consultation with his umpires, came near the end of a contest that was largely sporting, except for a number of niggly incidents which warranted bookings, and not unexpectedly, it angered Sars.
“As everyone knows, Conor is one of the cleanest players playing the game and how he got a straight red just defies belief,” said selector Eamonn Kelleher. “I thought it was a very harsh sending-off.”
Overall, the management were “happy enough”, he added. “After the last night, giving away five goals, the changes we made tightened up the defence enormously. To concede only nine points was very good. We thought there would (only) be the puck of a ball between us!”
UCC were hit by the withdrawal of Cork starlet Seamus Harnedy, scorer of 3-1 in the drawn game but injured with his club on Friday night and only introduced for the last 20 minutes.
“Replays sometimes go like that, we just never got out of the traps,” commented manager Paddy Crowley.
“Seamus was a huge loss — he was the architect of our five goals the last time. A couple of our team played matches over the weekend. We are at the end of the food chain when it comes to this. It is the way it always is for us at this time of the year.”
Indicative of Sarsfields’ dominance — once opening scores from Tadhg Óg Murphy and Cian McCarthy were cancelled out by two Jack Ahern frees — after Kieran Murphy put them back in the lead in the 13th minute they never lost it afterwards. Michael Cussen took a little while to come to terms with the challenge from Colm Spillane, but he was one of several players who exerted a strong influence, others including Cian McCarthy through his free-taking and Eanna Martin at left half-back.
Ahern’s accuracy from frees kept the students in touch for a while and Mark Sugrue was one of their more industrious forwards in general play. But, allied to an overall lack of penetration in Harnedy’s absence, they were to be dogged by poor finishing all through, in spite of strong play from the likes of Darragh Fives and William Egan in the half-back line.
A goal from Tadhg Óg Murphy in the 25th minute, when he cleverly intercepted a UCC sideline cut, reflected the champions’ superior play, with Conor O’Sullivan and county team-mate Daniel Kearney always comfortable on the ball and Kieran Murphy quite effective in the left corner. It saw them turn over with a lead of 1-8 to 0-5 and it could have been greater had Cussen not been awarded a penalty in the 27th minute.
There was little change in the trend of the play on resumption, except that Sars further enhanced their position on the scoreboard after wing-forward Eoin O’Sullivan sped down the middle before goaling in style.
Immediately following that score, which opened up a gap of nine points, Harnedy was introduced at full-forward. But, apart from being hindered by his injury, very little ball came in his direction and he faced a strong challenge against Joe Barry. It got worse for the St. Ita’s man when he was yellow-carded along with Barry before being pulled up for over-carrying when he attempted to get into a scoring position.
And so, the game moved towards its inevitable conclusion, with UCC’s poor finishing further undermining their determined play. It was as good as over when a cluster of players became involved in a goalmouth skirmish — and the net result was the issuing of the two red cards.
Scorers for Sarsfields: C. McCarthy 0-6 (frees); T. Óg Murphy 1-1; E. O’Sullivan 1-0; M. Cussen 0-3; K. Murphy and D. Roche 0-2 each.
Scorers for UCC: J. Ahern 0-4 (frees); Barry Lawton 0-2; M. Sugrue, R. O’Shea and D. Curran 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A. Kennedy; R. Ryan, J. Barry, C. O’Sullivan; G. O’Kelly Lynch, E. Quigley, E. Martin; D. Kearney, W. Kearney; D. Roche, C. McCarthy, E. O’Sullivan; T. Óg Murphy, M. Cussen, K. Murphy.
Subs: G. O’Loughlin for Roche (54).
UCC: P. O’Brien (St. Ita’s, capt.); D. Glynn (Dicksboro), C. Spillane (Castlelyons), B. Cleary (Knockainey); J. Barry (Upperchurch Drombane), D. Fives (Tourin), W. Egan (Kilbrin); P. Prendergast (Lismore), Brian Lawton (Castlemartyr); Barry Lawton (Castlemartyr), C. Murphy (Mallow), M. Sugrue (Bandon), J. Ahern (Killeedy), J. Barron (Fourmilewater). R. O’Shea (Carrigaline).
Subs: D. McCormack (Borrisoleigh) for Murphy (29); S. Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for Cleary (ht); S. Harnedy (St. Ita’s) for Prendergast (39); T. Curren (Ballinameala) for O’Shea (51); A. Good (Kinsale) for Ahern (58).
Referee: John Sexton (Ballyhea).