After going 51 years without a title, Sars finally claimed the Seán Óg Murphy Cup again in 2008 and have won two more since then, in ’10 and ’12. Throw in an appearance in the 2009 final against Newtownshandrum and they are now facing a fifth decider in six years.
They only trailed briefly here, after Killian McCarthy’s early goal put Ballymartle in front, but by half-time the Glanmire club established a 0-14 to 1-4 lead. Once they ensured the lead wasn’t eaten into after the break, they were not likely to be denied.
“It was always going to be a battle for the first 10 minutes of the second-half, realistically,” manager Eamonn Kelleher said.
“If they came at us and got a goal, we could have been dragged into a dogfight but we matched them score-for-score and that settled us. Coach John Considine has a philosophy that whether they’re four points up or four points down, it’s all about the next ball. That’s the way the lads played.”
After three consecutive weekends of games, Sars now have a two-week break before the final against Midleton, whom Sars lost to in the 2010 first round before winning the county through the back door.
Cork corner-back Conor O’Sullivan will have returned from suspension by then, and William Kearney and Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy, who could not start here due to injury, should be in contention too.
For Kelleher and his selectors, it’s the proverbial nice headache, given the strength of Sars’ options.
“Conor’ll be available for the final and we’d hope that the rest will do Fraggie some good too,” he said.
“It’s a problem for us, we have 19 or 20 players who could start and you could pick any 15 that would be as good as any other. It’s a good position to be in.
“In fairness, they’re a great bunch of lads, they’ll do anything you ask, whether it’s to train at 6am or 9pm. It’s a pleasure to be involved with them.”
It’s easy to see why, as they gave glimpses of just how good they can be, even though there is still sufficient room for improvement. Robert O’Driscoll, a late addition instead of Murphy, scored four points from play, the same tally as Michael Cussen, who was a lively presence at full-forward.
All of the starting six attackers scored from play and in midfield Daniel Kearney led the way with Eoin O’Sullivan — Conor’s brother — a more-than-able lieutenant.
Inside the first minute, Cussen was unlucky to flick Joe Barry’s delivery against the post and while O’Driscoll and Tadhg Óg Murphy got them off the mark, Ballymartle came roaring into the game.
Killian McCarthy pointed and then was in the right place to take an arrowed Rickard Cahalane pass before firing past Alan Kennedy.
Five unanswered Sars points midway through the half, with Cian McCarthy on song from frees, put them back in command though, despite the best efforts of Darren McCarthy for Ballymartle.
Sars’ lead had stretched to 0-13 to 1-4 when Cussen won a penalty in first-half injury time and though McCarthy’s shot hit the post, Cussen’s follow-up point was some compensation.
A pair of Barry Dwyer frees early in the second-half threatened a Ballymartle revival, but four points would be as close as they would come, Kennedy saving from Dan Dwyer on 40 and then full-back Barry making a great block from Ruairí Dywer’s rebound.
Sars grew stronger as the half wore on, while Ballymartle finished with 14 after Séamus Corry was sent off for two bookable offences.
Scorers for Sarsfields: C McCarthy 0-8 (seven frees), M Cussen, R O’Driscoll 0-4 each, D Kearney 0-3, G O’Loughlin 0-2, W Kearney, D Roche, T Óg Murphy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballymartle: K McCarthy 1-1, D McCarthy (one 65), B Corry 0-3 each, B Dwyer 0-2 (frees), J Dwyer, S O’Mahony (free), R Dwyer 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A Kennedy; R Ryan, J Barry, G O’Kelly-Lynch; C Leahy, E Quigley, É Martin; D Kearney, E O’Sullivan; D Roche, C McCarthy, G O’Loughlin; T Óg Murphy, M Cussen, R O’Driscoll.
Subs: W Kearney for T Óg Murphy (51), R Murphy for W Kearney (60, blood).
BALLYMARTLE: Declan McCarthy; J Kelly, M Tobin, D Edmonds; S Corry, P Dwyer, C Coleman; Darren McCarthy, R Cahalane; B Dwyer, R Dwyer, J Dwyer; D Dwyer, B Corry, K McCarthy.
Subs: K Fitzpatrick for B Dwyer (44, injured), S O’Mahony for Cahalane (50).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers).