Midleton 2-11 Sarsfields 0-14
WORLD Cup fever was about to grip the country, but the hurlers of great rivals Midleton and Sarsfields served up a memorable county championship tie at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Almost 30 years ago to the day legendary figure John Fenton stood over a penalty in the closing act of a tight match with the sides deadlocked at 1-11 to 0-14.
Thirty seconds from the end of regulation time referee Willie Horgan awarded Midleton the penalty following a foul on Paudie O’Brien.
The smart money was on the Cork star to plant it over the crossbar for a one-point lead with full-time looming large.
But, Fenton had other ideas and backed himself to rifle an unstoppable shot to the net, forcing Sars to cancel it out at the other end to force a second meeting.
However, the match finished with the resulting puck-out, leaving Sars, who had lost the 1989 final to Glen Rovers, crestfallen at the outcome and wondering what they had to do to get one over their east Cork rivals.
In truth, neither side deserved to lose, especially the Glanmire side, who dominated for long spells but couldn’t translate possession and opportunities into scores as reflected in their wide count of 13.
To compound matters they found keeper Ger Power on top of his game, pulling some a succession of fine saves, including one from Brian Lotty in the second-half which had the crowd on their feet.
There were some great battles all the way through with Sean O’Brien a rock at full-back for the Magpies and captain Denis Mulcahy and David Quirke at centre-back and left half-back respectively also playing leading roles.
In the first-half John Considine of Sars and Fenton got to know each other on one wing as did new Sars full-back Mick Beecher and Kevin Hennessy.
Sars shaded midfield through the efforts of Declan Kenneally and Mick Flynn until Midleton switched Fenton to partner John Hartnett in the second-half.
Captain Teddy McCarthy was also impressing in the number six role for Sars, who could only be on level terms 0-8 each at the break, despite looking the more likely side.
They were tied for the third time by the 20th minute with Fenton and Tadhg Murphy excelling in dead-ball situations, but Midleton struggled to open up regular supply lines into Hennessy, O’Brien and Ger Fitzgerald inside.
Even with Fenton’s growing influence on the game, Sars still enjoyed narrow leads for much of the second period with Flynn decorating his display with 0-3 from play.
They had a two-point advantage when Midleton, at last, created an opening for Fitzgerald after Fenton and Colm O’Neill linked out the field.
Fitzgerald’s 52nd-minute goal inched Midleton in front by a point only for Tim McAuliffe to level matters once more and set-up a tense finish.
Then came the dramatic conclusion with Fenton’s winning goal from the penalty-breaking Sars’ hearts once again.
Scorers for Midleton: J Fenton 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-4 f, 0-1 65), G Fitzgerald 1-1, J Hartnett, K Hennessy, J Boylan and P O’Brien 0-1 each.
Sarsfields: T Murphy 0-7 (0-6 f, 0-1 65), M Flynn 0-3, T McAuliffe 0-2, D Kenneally and N Ahern 0-1 each.
MIDLETON: G Power; J Power, S O’Brien, M Boylan; P Smith, D Mulcahy (c), D Quirke; K Roche, J Hartnett; J Fenton, C O’Neill, J Boylan; P O’Brien, K Hennessy, G Fitzgerald.
Sub: G Glavin for Roche.
SARSFIELDS: D Murphy; P Smith, M Beecher, V Barry; J Barry, T McCarthy (c), J Considine; D Kenneally, M Flynn; B Óg Murphy, B Lotty, T McAuliffe; T Murphy, N Ahern, M Allen.
Referee: W Horgan (Brian Dillons)