Sarsfields turned things around in the second half to make a statement in group A of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC at Páirc Uí Rinn on Friday night.
While the fear might have been that the introduction of a group stage in the Cork county championships would see a downturn in intensity, the fact that these teams share a group with Douglas and Ballyhea means that no complacency can be entertained.
The quality may not always have been at the highest levels, but there certainly wasn’t a sense of this being a game either could afford to lose.
With wind – imperceptible from the stand but noticeable at pitch level – behind them in the first half, Midleton looked superior, Conor Lehane scoring eight points as they retired with a 0-14 to 1-8 advantage.
However, Sars took them for 1-2 on the restart, the goal coming from Aaron Myers and the lead would only briefly revert to the Magpies in the 42nd minute when Luke O’Farrell’s goal put them 1-15 to 2-11 in front.
By the time of the second-half drinks break four minutes later, Sars were back in front after a pair of frees from Liam Healy, who finished with 1-7, and they were able to see the game out to ensure they took the points.
Centre-forward Healy was flanked by Myers and James Sweeney and the trio scored 2-12 between them while the two wing-forwards were influential in the air and on the ground. Captain Daniel Kearney at centre-back played a big role in ensuring that they stayed on top, especially in the second half, with the defence as a whole limiting Midleton to 1-3 in the second half.
The opening period had been a different state of affairs as 16 shots by the men in black and white yielded 14 points – the other two were a point attempt dropping short and a goal half-chance blocked. While Sars kept pace in the opening quarter as 12 points were shared, they weren’t as efficient, registering four wides and leaving three more into the hand of Midleton goalkeeper Joe Loftus.
An 0-8 to 0-6 lead for Midleton in the 21st minute after Cormac Beausang got the first of his three points didn’t seem to flatter them, but in an instant Sars were ahead as Healy took a Sweeney pass and drove at the defence, getting a low shot away despite being surrounded, the ball bouncing off the ground and beyond Loftus.
Despite the setback, Midleton regrouped and Lehane’s sixth and seventh had them back in front. While Healy levelled for Sars, Midleton had four of the last five points of the half, including two from midfielder Cormac Walsh.
Sarsfields effected a complete turnaround at the outset of the second half. Cian Darcy levelled matters and then provided Luke Hackett with a goal chance, which was repelled by Loftus, but Sars kept the attack going and Myers made no mistake with his effort from the left of goal, firing low to the net.
Healy added a free from halfway on 35 and, all of a sudden, it was 2-10 to 0-14. Lehane had his ninth for Midleton with their first second-half shot two minutes later but a fine Sweeney effort restored the two-point Sars advantage.
However, just as they had hit Midleton for a lead-changing goal in the first half, this time roles were reversed as Pa White was the provider for Luke O’Farrell to make it 1-15 to 2-11. Sars were unruffled though and Healy’s brace turned things back in their favour before the break.
It took until the 49th minute for Midleton’s first wide of the game but three more followed along with a Lehane free held up by the wind while Sars pushed on. Sub Daniel Hogan might have been in for a third goal but Eoin Moloney’s defending did enough to put him off. They had amassed enough, though, as Midleton’s late attempts to find a levelling goal came to nothing.
L Healy 1-7 (0-5f, 0-1 65), A Myers 1-2, J Sweeney 0-3, J O’Connor, C Darcy 0-2 each, D English 0-1.
C Lehane 0-10 (0-6f), L O’Farrell 1-1, C Walsh, C Beausang 0-3 each.
A Kennedy; W Kearney, C Leahy, C O’Sullivan; E Murphy, D Kearney, C Roche; D English, P Leopold; A Myers, L Healy, L Hackett; J Sweeney, J O’Connor, C Darcy.
D Hogan for O’Connor (41), D Walsh for Darcy (54) MIDLETON: J Loftus; S Smyth, E Moloney, K Burke; J Nagle, S O’Leary Hayes, P O’Farrell; S Quirke, C Walsh; C Beausang, C Lehane, T O’Connell; L O’Farrell, A Ryan, P White.
S O’Farrell for Nagle (44), S O’Meara for Ryan (49), P O’Keeffe for Burke (49, injured).
M Maher (St Finbarr’s)