THIS was a final showdown of dreams that dished out its usual measure of joy and disappointment but, in the end, one deft movement of wrist and ash just before half-time effectively decided the fate of the 2015 senior hurling championship at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
This county final replay mightn’t have been a classic but a benign November’s day and quite an excellent sod at the more expansive Salthill venue meant that the tie provided more open passages of hurling than the drawn encounter in Kenny Park two weeks previously.
For most of the first half, scarcely a puck of the ball separated the sides but as both sets of mentors had their first steps taken towards the dressingrooms in the 32nd minute, the course of this county final was to change inexorably.
The two minutes of injury time had just ticked up to their limit when Niall Quinn shaped up to a long range free on the terraced side of the ground – it gave him the opportunity to land one last ball into the danger zone.
His long delivery to the edge of the Craughwell square was met with the cleanest of flicks from Noel Kelly, and in the blink of an eye, the ball had nestled in the back of Aidan Ryan’s net. A mighty torpedo had been delivered by Sarsfields and Craughwell had taken in a gush of unexpected water.
This was a county final that was there to be won by either side . . . make no mistake about that. Over 120 minutes of hurling, scarcely a puck of the ball separated the sides but in the end just a little extra edge in finishing power was enough to see Sarsfields over the line.
The simple but truthful analysis of this match is that Sarsfields’ two first half goal strikes decided the outcome, with Joseph Cooney’s 10th minute score also laying down a clear marker that he intended to make this his day in the sun.
Cooney, who gave quite a majestic display of power hurling over the course of the hour, cut through the heart of the Craughwell defence and ended his 30 yard run with a rasping shot to the back of Ryan’s net.
It was a score of near equal importance to Kelly’s late first half strike as it undid a lot of early Craughwell dominance. Stephen Glennon’s charges had started with real intent, storming into an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with points from Niall Healy (two frees), Jamie Ryan and Alan Callanan.
Sarsfields had been struggling a tad to match the early intensity of the Craughwell onslaught but Cooney’s goal strike helped them into a 1-3 to 0-5 lead by the 17th minute following a Kerril Wade point strike.