Sarsfields flatter to deceive in securing knock-out spot

Sarsfields 2-18

Ardrahan 2-15

WITH their championship season on the line, it was no surprise that Sarsfields bolted out of the traps in this competitive Group 4 Senior A hurling clash at Duggan Park on Sunday.

But it proved far from plain sailing after Sarsfields had surged into a 1-9 to 0-3 lead with just 17 minutes gone on the clock – the New Inn/Bullaun men having to survive a series of late assaults on their posts by a spirited Ardrahan outfit who had already booked their ticket to the knock-out stages.

In the first ever Galway group match televised live – TG4 continues to break new ground with their excellent sports coverage – Sarsfields undid the damage from their previous group loss to Castlegar but will need significant improvement if they are to advance deep into the title race.

In fact, they flirted with a shock exit from the championship in the closing stages as Ardrahan failed to exploit a string of goal chances, with Sarsfields’ custodian Ciaran Dolan having to react smartly to deny his opposite number, Darach Fahy, from a stoppage-time 20m free to prevent a stalemate outcome.

That scenario would still have been enough for Sarsfields to go through, but the way in which they lost a strong grip on the exchanges must trouble manager Francis Madden, especially as they had a lot more at stake than an Ardrahan team which has been something of a revelation in 2023 so far.

They could have rolled over after such a poor start, but you could see from manager Syl Dolan’s body language that it was important to maintain some sort of momentum after positive results against Castlegar and Craughwell. Despite not scoring from play until the 18th minute, Ardrahan knuckled down and will take lots of encouragement from their strong finish.

Yet, the decent crowd must have been wondering was the South Galway club’s unbeaten run to date a flash in the pan given their opening quarter troubles. Sarsfields were completely dominant as they built up a significant nine-point lead.

With Joseph Cooney quickly lording it at centre back, and Ian Fox and Alex Connaire taking no time to make their presence felt either, Sarsfields had four points on the board inside six minutes, with Kevin Cooney (free), defender Darren Morrissey, Paddy Mac Cárthaigh and Fox all target.

Pictured: Darren Murphy of Sarsfields comes under pressure from Ardrahan’s Jack Bourke during Sunday’s Senior A Hurling Championship tie at Duggan Park. Photo: David Cunniffe.

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