Sarsfields surge clear of Réalt na Mara with late flourish
Sarsfields 2-10 Réalt na Mara 0-6
Sarsfields produced a stirring last quarter to take one step further than twelve months ago when they eventually had ten points to spare over Réalt na Mara in the first of the Greenstar Under-21 football Roinn 1 championship semi-finals in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.
The Wexford town team bowed out to eventual outright victors Gusserane at the same stage in 2016, but now they have a chance to secure a title last held by the club when Kilrush were beaten in a replayed final 21 years ago.
Although an Andrew Harrington free just over one minute into the second-half extended Sarsfields' lead to five points, they found themselves under mounting pressure for the rest of the third quarter.
It was Réalt na Mara's best spell, with the momentum starting to build for last year's beaten county finalists when handpasses from Dylan Sweeney set up Cathal Dunbar and Cormac Moore for points before the provider turned finisher himself after a strong David Doran run (1-5 to 0-6).
Sarsfields needed to stem that tide fast as the game moved into the last quarter, and they came up with the goods on an afternoon when both midfielders plus all six starting forwards contributed to the scoring tally.
Andrew Harrington lofted one of their four wides from a free, but Conall Clancy raced on to the kick-out and fired over his side's first point in quarter of an hour to lift the siege.
Dylan Furlong beat Cathal Dunbar to the next re-start by Kiran Gigi, and this led to Ciarán Kirwan's point from a high kick as daylight started to appear between the sides (1-7 to 0-6).
The ability of Sarsfields to win the opposition's kick-out was key, with Pádraig Clancy adding another point before a calmly-finished goal ended the game as a contest in the 50th minute.
This time Andrew Harrington made hay from the Réalt na Mara re-start, feeding Ciarán Kirwan who in turn picked out David Gouldson bearing down on goal. And the midfielder resisted to urge to blast it, instead coolly slotting the ball past netminder Gigi with his left foot (2-8 to 0-6).
Dylan Furlong and Harrington (free) added the last two points, with a Dylan Sweeney pot-shot from a free blocked at the other end before the last piece of drama saw a brief wrestling match and unnecessary involvement from the sideline end in three yellow cards, one for the winners and two for the losers.
Ex-county Minor Brian O'Connor and ball-winning wing-forward Brendan Corcoran tried hard for the Gorey District champions, but they never led and were always chasing the game after conceding a goal in the eleventh minute.
Danny Walsh had got the Sars off the mark with a point before Andrew Harrington played a short free to team captain Dylan Furlong. He slipped a handpass inside to Conall O Crualaoich, and the wing-forward made room with a neat sidestep before planting a low shot into Kiran Gigi's net.
James Fleming got Réalt na Mara off the mark in the 18th minute, but Walsh and Harrington registered at the other end before a goal-line clearance by Shane Hall prevented Mikey Burke from getting the goal his team needed.
Dylan Sweeney did convert two frees late in the half, with Harrington grabbing his second from play in between as the Sars retired at the break clear by 1-4 to 0-3.
They realised the work was far from done when Réalt na Mara outscored them by three points to one in that third quarter, but a team featuring stand-out performers in defender Daire Reville and midfielder David Gouldson did the needful in emphatic style by doubling their own tally before the finish.
Sarsfields: Jake Clancy; Daire Reville, Cathal Kirwan, Fiach O Crualaoich; Adam Carroll, Conor Halligan, Shane Hall; Dylan Furlong (capt., 0-1), David Gouldson (1-0); Conall Clancy (0-1), Ciarán Kirwan (0-1), Conall O Crualaoich (1-0); Pádraig Clancy (0-1), Danny Walsh (0-2), Andrew Harrington (0-4, 2 frees). Subs. - Seán Banville for Carroll, inj. (42), Cillian Gahan for Harrington (54), Eoghan Goodison for F. O Crualaoich (60), Darragh Goodison for P. Clancy (60).
Réalt na Mara: Kiran Gigi; David Doran (capt.), Darren Morris, Killian Doyle; Paddy Fleming, Tom Sinnott, Brian O'Connor; Cathal Dunbar (0-1), Eoin Corcoran; Mikey Burke, Cormac Moore (0-1), Brendan Corcoran; James Fleming (0-1), Dylan Sweeney (0-3, 2 frees), Billy Conroy. Subs. - Conor O'Toole for Conroy (46), Johnny Sinnott for Doyle (54), Conor Dowling for J. Fleming (60+2).
Referee: Jack Stafford (Clongeen).