Castlemartyr 1-19 Sarsfields 0-12
HAVING begun 2021 as a lower intermediate side, Castlemartyr will end the year preparing for the premier intermediate grade.
Victory over Sarsfields at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening made it two county titles in the space of 91 days, having beaten Russell Rovers in the 2020 LIHC decider in late August.
The step up proved to be well within their wheelhouse, topping their group to take an automatic semi-final spot before beating Cloughduv in the last four. While their East Cork neighbours Sarsfields had taken a similar route and could call upon players with valuable senior experience, Castlemartyr’s momentum could not be stopped.
It took some time for them to assert their supremacy – the key period was at the outset of the second half as an inspirational Ciarán Joyce from his own 45 put them 0-10 to 0-7 ahead before a Joe Stack goal – but from there they was no denying them as a 1-15 to 0-9 water-break lead was augmented in the closing stages.
Former Cork star Brian Lawton was at his best in a midfield role that linked the play brilliantly, while Joyce, who starred in red for Cork U20s this summer and will surely step up to senior, was imperious at centre-back. Cathal Martin was another to excel in defence and they benefited from all six of their starting forwards getting on the scoresheet.
It was a load that was shared well. Mike Kelly was very prominent in the first half, when Sars were at their strongest, and it was he who set up the goal for Stack, who excelled thereafter while Barry Lawton and Andrew Kelly strung four and three points respectively through influential performances. While Eoin O’Sullivan’s dead-ball potency was a valuable asset for Sars, who had Neil Fitzpatrick on form in defence, the Riverstown side didn’t have any other player landing more than one score.
When Sars do look back, they will reflect on early goal chances that might have put them in command, with O’Sullivan setting up James O’Leary in the second minute and O’Leary laying on an opportunity for Cormac Duggan on 12. Then on 18, O’Leary was again provider, this time for Ben Graham, who got a shot in after being forced wide by Martin. Unfortunately for Sars, all three efforts were repelled by Daire Coughlan in the Castlemartyr goal and they retired at the water break with a 0-6 to 0-4 advantage.
Two from O’Sullivan did help Sars to level, but a Kelly free and points from Niall Madden and Barry Lawton – both set up by Brian Lawton – helped Castlemartyr to lead by 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time.
That lead became three when Joyce landed his booming effort from the docks over the bar at the Blackrock End. Then, when Kelly had the opportunity of a straightforward point on 35, he instead opted to go for the jugular with a pass to Stack, who fired home.
Though O’Sullivan replied with his fifth and Sars’ eighth point, Kelly (two) and Barry Lawton put Castlemartyr 1-13 to 0-8 in front by the 40th minute.
While Sars sub Paul Leopold had helped to curb the influence of Brian Lawton somewhat, the scores continued to flow. At the other end, Sars sought a late miraculous intervention but Castlemartyr ensured their sheet stayed clean – there was a bit of luck involved but they had earned that.
The Paddy Walsh Cup was headed for his native Castlemartyr and they will face into the third tier with few fears.