Sarsfields avoid relegation decider
The spectre of a relegation final loomed large in the Kilmore evening sunshine on Monday, and relief was the over-riding emotion for the Sarsfields club when they hit 2-4 without reply between the 45th and 62nd minutes to defeat St. Fintan's by 2-9 to 0-9 in a tense Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship Group A clash.
Sarsfields 2-9 St Fintan's 0-9
The scenario was simple for both teams beforehand: whoever lost was heading for the relegation decider with one chance to salvage their status; the victors were guaranteed to preserve their Senior status for 2016, albeit finishing in fifth place which prevented qualification for the current quarter-finals.
St. Fintan's, with the slight breeze, led by 0-3 to 0-1 by the end of the first quarter after points from frees by Conor Sinnott, Donal Shanley and Shane Sinnott in response to a Paul Murphy effort from play for the town team after just 15 seconds.
A Shanley '45 was converted in between two more scores from the menacing Murphy before Philip Cullen brought Sarsfields level from a free. However, Brendan Hughes came forward from wing-back to kick the first Fintan's point from play in the third minute of added time and leave them with a 0-5 to 0-4 interval lead.
The men from Ballymore and Mayglass had the best of the exchanges in the third quarter as they stretched their lead to 0-8 to 0-5. Midfielder Pádraig Doyle - brother of soccer star Kevin - kicked two sweet points after Donal Shanley converted an early free, with the sole Sars response coming from a Philip Cullen free.
However, when the pressure was at its greatest the town team responded. Paul Murphy (free) and Philip Cullen reduced the gap to one before they equalised in the 51st minute when Lee Chin struck a sublime free off the ground and over the bar from tight to the left-hand touchline.
Cullen edged them ahead but nine agonising, scoreless minutes followed before the outcome was finally decided at the death. Sarsfields substitute Conor Halligan did extremely well to earn a penalty which Paul Murphy calmly converted, and one minute later another young replacement, Shane Wilde, slotted home the decisive second goal.
Donal Shanley kicked a late consolation free for St. Fintan's who will now be involved in the relegation final, regardless of how they fare in their last group game against Shelmaliers. Likewise, the meeting of holders St. Anne's - table-toppers on eight points - and Sarsfields will be a dead rubber as no matter what the result is, the Rathangan side will finish first and the Sars will remain fifth.
The only issue to be decided is the matter of final placings between Adamstown and Fethard who will also meet. The winners will end up third, and the losers will be fourth, with both heading for the quarter-finals regardless.
It's a little more interesting in Group B where just four points divide the top team (St. Martin's with six) from the bottom (Horeswood with two). In between lie Starlights and Gusserane (five each), Castletown and St. James' (three each). The fifth and final round pairings are St. Martin's v. Castletown, Horeswood v. Gusserane and Starlights v. St. James', so there's a lot to play for.