Injury time drama
Minor final ends in welter of excitement
There was incredible drama in the eight added minutes in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday as Sarsfields squandered a one-time seven-point lead before relying on a superb 45-metre pressure free from midfielder Adam Dempsey to salvage a draw with Castle-Craan Gaels in the Wexford People Minor football Roinn 1 championship final.
Sarsfields 1-11 Castle-Craan Gaels 1-11
There had been little between the sides for long stages, but it looked like the town team had pounced for the decisive score in the 54th minute. The impressive Seán Hopkins delivered a pass down the left wing at the town end to lively substitute Conall Clancy who raced away from his marker before planting the ball in the net.
That goal extended the Sarsfields lead to 1-10 to 0-7, but Castle-Craan Gaels kept plugging away and came extremely close to performing a smash and grab raid in an exciting finish.
Robbie Brooks and his younger brother, Darragh (free), pulled back points before the game entered the eight added minutes played by referee Brendan Martin.
Darragh Brooks converted another placed ball before Rory Heffernan got on the end of another of his free-kicks to swing a left-footed effort between the posts in the 65th minute (1-10 to 0-11).
It was at this point that the real drama occurred. Jake Clancy slipped while taking the kick-out which was intercepted by Cillian Pierce. He found Jamie Doyle who in turn sent a swift pass to Shane Halpin, and the corner-forward beat Clancy's valiant attempt to save the ball for a dramatic goal to give the Castletown/Craanford combination a 1-11 to 1-10 lead.
Sarsfields pressed forward in search of a leveller, with Conall Clancy directing the ball across the square to Andrew Harrington who was bottled up and registered a wide.
They were granted one last chance in the eighth added minute when Dylan Furlong was fouled in a central position on the 45-metre line. It was a very tough kick for a teenager given the pressure attached on such a big day, but Adam Dempsey was equal to the task as he calmly split the posts to ensure a replay.
There was never more than two points between them in the first-half, with Sarsfields edging into a 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead when Andrew Harrington earned and converted a late free.
Earlier Cian Bealin had been unable to make the most of a good goal chance for Castle-Craan Gaels in the fourth minute, but full-forward Robbie Brooks had immediate opponent Terry Whitty under pressure and won a couple of frees for his younger sibling to convert.
With Whitty on a yellow card, the Sarsfields mentors acted swiftly by moving midfielder Cathal Kirwan to the edge of the square after 21 minutes, and it proved a success.
It had been 4-3 in Castle-Craan's favour at the end of the first quarter, with Darragh Brooks (three frees) and James Smyth on target while Dylan Furlong, Andrew Harrington (free) and Seán Hopkins responded.
Jake Clancy made a fine save to keep out a Rory Heffernan shot in the 20th minute, but Darragh Brooks converted another free in the follow-up.
However, Sarsfields made better use of their chances in the run-in to half-time as Adam Dempsey, Seán Hopkins and Andrew Harrington (free) scored unanswered points.
The leaders were grateful to corner-back Dáire Reville for a goal-line clearance inside four minutes of the re-start, but they pushed on during the third quarter as points from Dylan Furlong, Andrew Harrington and Seán Banville stretched their advantage to 9-5.
Banville also had a shot deflected on to the crossbar via a defender's block, and Castle-Craan hadn't scored for nearly 26 minutes before Darragh Brooks ended that sequence at the start of the last quarter.
Andrew Harrington (free) and Brooks went on to swap points before Conall Clancy's goal, but the drama was only beginning and those who reckoned that was the clincher for Sarsfields were proved wrong in a finish that had just about everything.
Sarsfields: Jake Clancy; Dáire Reville, Terry Whitty, Rian Carty; Adam Carroll, Fiach O Crualaoich, Shane Hall; Cathal Kirwan, Adam Dempsey (0-2, 1 free); Seán Hopkins (0-2), Dylan Furlong (0-2), Conor Hillis (capt.); Seán Banville (0-1), Danny Walsh, Andrew Harrington (0-4, 3 frees). Subs. - Conal O Crualaoich for Whitty (21), Conall Clancy (1-0) for Hillis (36), Adam Roche for Carroll, inj. (52), Liam Kehoe for Carty (57), Darragh Goodison for Walsh (60), also Ryan Dempsey, Eoghan Goodison, Shane Bergin, Cameron Farrell, Ben Butler, Gary Carroll, Lee Whelan.
Castle-Craan Gaels: Thomas Furlong; Ross Coady, Martin Doyle, Jack Keogh; Cillian Pierce, Frank Roche, Jim Kenny; Oisín Condren (capt.), Rory Heffernan (0-1); Cian Bealin, Jamie Doyle, James Smyth (0-1); Darragh Brooks (0-8, 6 frees), Robbie Brooks (0-1), Shane Halpin (1-0). Subs. - Eoin Cullen for Bealin (36), Eoin Buckley for Kenny, inj. (60+5), also Danny Doyle, Seán Dunne, Andrew Byrne, Páraic Redmond, Eoin Doyle.
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).