AS expected, this game was in the melting pot with five minutes to play when Kerrill Wade grabbed a crucial goal for 2015 county champions Sarsfields.
Wade’s major pushed Sarsfields five points clear of 2014 kingpins Gort, the largest margin either side had held in the contest until then, and allowed them to successfully strangle Gort’s attempts at what would have been a miraculous late comeback. Sarsfields defensive strength was evident right throughout the course of affairs, with Joseph Cooney providing an assuring presence in the centre-back position.
Yet, there was a touch of good luck surrounding Wade’s goal. Sarsfields’ number 11 did exceptionally well to lift the sliotar up from a cluster of bodies and get a shot away from 50 yards, an effort which Gort goalkeeper Gavin Lally lost in the fading Athenry sunlight. It wasn’t the only significant incident to take place down at the scoreboard end goal of Kenny Park in the second period.
Nine minutes into the half, Ian Skehill’s shot for the posts went astray and planted one of the umpires straight in the face. Unfortunately, the umpire was left with a bloodied nose, and was duly relieved of his duties following four minutes of treatment. Referee Shane Hynes played seven minutes of injury time at the end of proceedings as a consequence.
The game had been level 0-12 apiece when the break in play occurred, and it was Sarsfields who tore into the restart and outscored Gort 1-5 to 0-3 for the remainder. It may have been the first round of the championship, but the contest never lacked for intensity and a couple of skirmishes defined the closing minutes, even continuing between the sets of players after the final whistle had been sounded.
Sarsfields defensive effort was all the more impressive when you consider that the Quinn brothers Niall and Ronan weren’t playing and player-manager Cathal Murray was on the bench. All three have been stalwarts for Sarsfields in recent years, but it gave the opportunity to the likes of Darren Morrissey, Eoghan Spellman and Ian Fox to step up to the plate.
Sarsfields are a horses for courses type of team, meaning they can assign their defensive alignment to suit the set of forwards coming at them. With that, Kevin Hynes followed Richie Cummins and Fox, who had an excellent first half, was assigned to take Aidan Helebert, scorer of 0-51 in last year’s campaign for Gort.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune