Three early goals helped to flag Sarsfields’ passage to next weekend’s Cork SHC semi-final as early as the interval and there was little an under-performing Killeagh could do to avoid a heavy beating.
With Cork star Conor O’Sullivan losing his appeal against a month’s ban, the holders have further concerns ahead of their date with Ballymartle after William Kearney and Kieran Murphy were forced off and Cian McCarthy aggravated an ankle injury.
“If you are short an inter-county player he is always a loss, the further we go the more we will miss Conor,” selector Eamonn Kelleher admitted.
“It’s a very harsh suspension; we’ll just have to try and deal with it. We won’t know anything about the injuries until we assess them. We’d be satisfied with the team performance. It was a derby; it was always going to be difficult. The goals in the first half more or less settled us — we were always comfortable once we got the third one.”
Killeagh manager Noel O’Connor wasn’t inclined to blame a nine weeks lay-off on the one-sided nature of the contest, but conceded it was a factor.
“We had a good day out against Avondhu, I suppose if we were to build on the momentum then, we needed to be going in against Sars the week afterwards.
“They got two quick goals which set us back and that left them open up and drive on from there. We never really recovered. We weren’t aggressive enough maybe to get on the ball more often to get scores. We would have hoped that the breaks that came near the end would have come a bit earlier for us.”
Once again, Michael Cussen was an influential figure for Sarsfields, getting the first of the goals in the opening minute and having a direct input in the next two. He set up Tadhg Óg Murphy in the 5th minute and left Kieran Murphy the simple task of finishing the ball to the net when his effort off the goalkeeper.
That was in the 17th minute, putting the favourites eight points clear and, realistically giving them type of start Killeagh would have needed to put up a decent challenge that would have reflected some very good defending at different times from captain Kevin Lane at centre-back, along with Cian Fogarty and Patrick O’Brien.
Instead, Sarsfields were able to keep a tight grip on the game through outstanding play in defence from the likes of Eoin Quigley and Eanna Martin (again) in the half- back line. They also benefitted from a more industrious midfield pairing in which Daniel Kearney impressed once more – and, where it mattered – an attacking unit that threatened throughout with Cussen as the central figure.
They turned over 3-5 to 0-6 in front and things got a lot worse for the opposition before a late rally earned them goals from Andrew Walsh and Sean Long.
Killeagh lifted the siege on the resumption with some resolute defending and good work from Philip O’Neill, but continuing difficulties up front — where Joe Deane never got going — had the effect of undermining the overall effort considerably.
Deane got their opening score of the second half and by the time he pointed again in the 49th minute, Sars had upped their score to 4-9, with Cussen getting a second goal.
And Cian McCarthy, reliable in his free-taking, had the ball in the net from 21 yards free in the 54th minute – following which Killeagh had the minor consolation of their two late goals.
Scorers for Sarsfields: C. McCarthy 1-5 (1-2 frees, 0-2 ‘65’s); M. Cussen 2-1; T. Óg Murphy 1-1; K. Murphy 1-0; E. O’Sullivan and R. O’Driscoll 0-2 each; G. O’Loughlin 0-1.
Scorers for Killeagh: S. Long and A. Walsh 1-0 each; J. Deane 0-3 (0-2 frees); B. Barry, K. Lane (free), J. Budds, P. O’Neill, C. Fogarty and D. Cahill 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A. Kennedy; R. Ryan, J. Barry, W. Kearney; G. O’Kelly Lynch, E. Quigley, E. Martin; D. Kearney, G. O’Loughlin; D. Roche, C. McCarthy, E. O’Sullivan; T. Óg Murphy, M. Cussen, K. Murphy.
Subs: C. Leahy for W. Kearney (inj. 22); R. O’Driscoll for K. Murphy (inj. 28).
KILLEAGH: B. Rochford; P. McGrath, Colin Fogarty, P. O’Brien, B. Barry, K. Lane (capt.). Cian Fogarty; P. O’Neill, S. Long; A. Walsh, P. Carroll, J. Budds; E. Keniry, M. Byrne, J. Deane.
Subs: B. Collins for Barry (inj. 17); D. Cahill for Keniry (31); M. Murphy for Carroll (44); S. Murphy for O’Neill (54); D. Walsh for Budds (58).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Carrigaline).