Slick Sarsfields excel in the second half to reel in Midleton in Cork hurling thriller

Slick Sarsfields excel in the second half to reel in Midleton in Cork hurling thriller
James Sweeney (12) and Cian Darcey, Sarsfields, try and find a way past Joe Loftus and Seadniadh Smyth, Midleton, in the Premier Senior Hurling Championship at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Sarsfields 2-17 Midleton 1-17

A strong second-half turnaround gave Sarsfields a winning start in Group A of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC at Páirc Uí Rinn on Friday night.

Having trailed by 0-14 to 1-8 at half-time, Sars – featuring many of the plalyers who won county U21 titles in 2017 and 2019 – blitzed their opponents with a goal and top points on the resumption. While Midleton did briefly lead again after a Luke O’Farrell goal in the 42nd minute, Sars were back in front by the water break and pushed for home to lay down a marker in a group also featuring Douglas and Ballyhea.

The Sars half-forward line combined for 2-12 of their 2-17 total, with centre-forward Liam Healy scoring 1-7 and the physical wing-forward combination of Aaron Myers (1-2) and James Sweeney (0-3) also making their presence felt. Captain Daniel Kearney was excellent at centre-back for Sars in the second half, with the experience of him, twin brother William and Craig Leahy coming to bear as they repelled late Midleton pressure.

Eoghan Murphy, Sarsfields, holds off Padraig O'Farrell, Midleton. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Eoghan Murphy, Sarsfields, holds off Padraig O'Farrell, Midleton. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

In the period up to the first-half water break, the sides matched each other, level on six occasions after Conor Lehane opened the scoring with a point from halfway in the opening minute.

He had their first four points but, while Sars occasionally over-elaborated and weren’t as efficient with scoring opportunities though they were level at 0-6 each through midfielder Donal English in the 17th minute.

After the restart, Midleton attacker Pa White did well to force a turnover and free, with Lehane despatching the dead ball. When Seán O’Leary Hayes set up Cormac Beausang for a good score from the left, it was 0-8 to 0-6 and the game’s biggest lead up to then, but Sars responded strongly in the 23rd minute.

When James Sweeney won possession 40 yards out, he looked to be bottled up but managed to lay off possession to the onrushing Healy and, though he was surrounded, he was able to send a low one-handed shot skimming to the net.

They had the lead for the first time but would only manage two of the eight points scored from there to half-time. Industrious Midleton midfielder Cormac Walsh had to bring his personal tally to three while Lehane continued to display dead-eyed accuracy to reach eight points.

The half ended with Midleton 0-14 to 1-8 ahead, having not had any wides while Sars had four with three more efforts dropping short. However, there was a wind at pitch level and in the second half Sars made it count to their advantage as Midleton struggled to find their range.

After Cian Darcy opened the second-half scoring for them, he then set up Jack O’Connor for a goal effort which was saved by Joe Loftus. Play was kept alive though and when Myers found himself with an opportunity from the left, he sent a low shot to the net.

Healy’s free from halfway made it 2-10 to 0-14 and though Lehane replied for Midleton, Darcy might have had another Sars goal but for a good Seanaidh Smyth block. Sweeney did put them two ahead after a good run but Luke O’Farrell’s goal, set up by Pa White, had Midleton 1-15 to 2-11 in front on 42.

The lead was fleeting though as Healy got his sixth point from a free and he put his side ahead with his seventh. In contrast, Midleton were more wayward than they had been and Sweeney made it 2-14 to 1-16 after he managed to seize possession.

Daniel Kearney, Sarsfields, battles former Cork team-mate Conor Lehane, Midleton. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Daniel Kearney, Sarsfields, battles former Cork team-mate Conor Lehane, Midleton. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Lehane did get his 10th for Midleton with a free from his own 65 in the 54th minute but other efforts went astray and Myers restored Sars’ breathing space before almost setting up sub Daniel Hogan for a goal opportunity, full-back Eoin Mooney denying him.

At the other end, Midleton needed to fashion something but, other than an O’Farrell shot deflected wide, their efforts were in vain and Sars saw the game out with points from Jack O’Connor and Sweeney.

Scorers for Sarsfields: L Healy 1-7 (0-5f, 0-1 65), A Myers 1-2, J Sweeney 0-3, J O’Connor, C Darcy 0-2 each, D English 0-1.

Scorers for Midleton: C Lehane 0-10 (0-6f), L O’Farrell 1-1, C Walsh, C Beausang 0-3 each.

SARSFIELDS: A Kennedy; W Kearney, C Leahy, C O’Sullivan; E Murphy, D Kearney, C Roche; D English, P Leopold; A Myers, L Healy, L Hackett; J Sweeney, J O’Connor, C Darcy.

Subs: D Hogan for O’Connor (41), D Walsh for Darcy (54)

MIDLETON: J Loftus; S Smyth, E Moloney, K Burke; J Nagle, S O’Leary Hayes, P O’Farrell; S Quirke, C Walsh; C Beausang, C Lehane, T O’Connell; L O’Farrell, A Ryan, P White.

Subs: S O’Farrell for Nagle (44), S O’Meara for Ryan (49), P O’Keeffe for Burke (49, injured).

Referee: M Maher (St Finbarr’s)

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