Five times since 2008, the Glanmire club have been victorious at this stage and their start here — leading 1-5 to 0-1 inside 13 minutes — indicated they were in the mood to wrap things up quickly and without fuss. To Na Piarsaigh’s credit, they managed to build up a head of steam and twice in the second-half clawed their way back to within a point.
When the game was there to be won, Sars finished with five unanswered points to ensure victory, calling on all their experience at the business end of the championship.
“We played well in patches,” said manager Pat Ryan afterwards. “In fairness they put it up to us in the second-half. We’re delighted to be in another final.
“We got a great start but fellas knew we needed that. We relaxed a small bit in the middle quarter but there was no panic. Our lads have great experience and we got the scores to pull away again.”
Cian McCarthy was the Sars talisman, scoring 1-10, winning good ball and displaying a deadly accuracy from placed balls. In defence, William Kearney and Ray Ryan were heroic as time and again Piarsaigh half-chances of goals were smothered. Early on, it was all Sars, with a 0-4 to 0-1 lead augmented as McCarthy’s sideline pucked sailed serenely to the Piarsaigh net and then Gavin O’Loughlin put seven in it.
Points from Keith Buckley and Patrick Rourke helped the city side to get going though and, by half-time, the margin was down to four points, 1-8 to 0-7.
On the resumption, Chris Joyce — who had an engaging tussle with Cork colleague Daniel Kearney at midfield — was the Piarsaigh driving force, scoring a point and assisting others for Buckley and Anthony Dennehy, with just a point between the teams after 39 minutes.
Buckley missed a chance to level with a free though, and then at the other end McCarthy gave Sars more breathing space after Daniel Kearney’s driving run was illegally halted.
Adam Dennehy responded for Piarsaigh after Rourke’s good lay-off but Sars had weathered the worst of the storm and McCarthy got his eighth and ninth points. Rourke might have goaled immediately after, but his shot from a narrow angle flashed over and that was Na Piarsaigh’s final score. As they have so often done in the past, Sars showed the necessary temperament to book their place in the decider. While sub Robert O’Driscoll was denied a goal as Alan Keating came off his line quickly, the impressive Cormac Duggan and then Daniel Kearney pushed them four ahead again.
The Sars defending was resolute as Na Piarsaigh’s efforts to find a goal were repelled. McCarthy, Eoin O’Sullivan and Duggan all helped themselves to points as they finished seven ahead. Perhaps a shade flattering, but definitely not unearned.
“Our lads are very fit,” Ryan said, “our conditioning coach Brian Roche has done a great job.
“The lads work very hard. They’re dedicated, you can’t get to six finals in seven years without that. There are huge levels of effort and commitment from them and their wives and girlfriends. There’s a lot asked of fellas in terms of training and staying off the drink and not going to America, our fellas are committed to that all the time.”
Scorers for Sarsfields: C McCarthy 1-10 (1-0 sideline, 0-6 frees, 0-1 65), C Duggan 0-3, G O’Loughlin 0-2, E O’Sullivan, T Óg Murphy, D Kearney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: K Buckley 0-4 (0-2 frees), P Rourke 0-3, C Joyce, I McDonnell 0-2 each, Adam Dennehy, C Buckley, Anthony Dennehy 0-1 each.
SARSFIELDS: A Kennedy; W Kearney, C Leahy, C O’Sullivan; D Roche, R Ryan, É Martin; D Kearney, E Quigley; E O’Sullivan, G O’Loughlin, C McCarthy; K Murphy, C Duggan, T Óg Murphy.
Subs: R O’Driscoll for K Murphy (49), R Murphy for O’Loughlin (57).
NA PIARSAIGH: A Keating; A Brady, E Gunning, E Moynihan; Adam Dennehy, J Gardiner, S Óg Ó hAilpín; C Joyce, C Buckley; K Buckley, P Gould, P Rourke; D Lee, I McDonnell, Anthony Dennehy.
Subs: E Hanafin for Lee (43), S Duggan for McDonnell, S O’Sullivan for Gould (both 52), C O’Mahony for K Buckley (60), A Kenneally for Joyce (60, injured).
Referee: N Wall (Carrigaline).