Cork GAA club focus: Sarsfields hungry for more hurling success

Andrew Horgan looks at how the thriving Riverstown-based club plan to maximise their huge playing base
Cork GAA club focus: Sarsfields hungry for more hurling success

Hurlers from Sarsfields at an U8 blitz in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year. Picture: Larry Cummins.

SARSFIELDS recently implemented significant changes behind the scenes in the hope of returning the GAA club to the glories of the not-too-distant past.

They’ve shaken up the executive committee which makes the majority of the major decisions at Sars. Many significant figures, who were at the helm when they reached seven county finals, winning four between 2008 and 2015, have taken a step back.

The most significant change of all saw the experienced Tadhg Murphy, who served the club brilliantly for 15 years, succeeded by Keith Mulcahy.

Mulcahy acknowledges it will be a tough task following in Murphy’s footsteps but he insists he is up to the challenge, even if some people he knows aren’t so sure.

A goalmouth scramble as Sars keeper Tadgh Murphy saves from Imokilly forwards Philip Cahill and Timmy McCarthy with help from John Considine, Brian McCarthy and Pat Smith. Picture: Des Barry
A goalmouth scramble as Sars keeper Tadgh Murphy saves from Imokilly forwards Philip Cahill and Timmy McCarthy with help from John Considine, Brian McCarthy and Pat Smith. Picture: Des Barry

“It was always going to be daunting taking over from him,” begins Mulcahy.

“But I’m young enough, I’m only 44 and people have said to me ‘There is no way you can be the chairman of Sars.’ I said I know I am young but I am lucky enough that I have a lot of energy and I love the club, I played for them all the way up from juvenile up to junior level.

“I think once you have a genuine interest in the club the workload becomes manageable then.

“I’m very lucky that I have a lot of really, really good people on the committee with me, a lot of good people that are also really genuine and interested in the club.

“I was two years as the juvenile chairman before that and for five or six years I was the juvenile secretary.

“But just with the senior role, it is still just about finding our feet really because we have a new executive committee in place as well since last February so we are only six months into it really.

“The last committee we had in place, the last chairman we had as well - Tadhg Murphy - he was superb in fairness, he was there 15 years and maybe he felt we just needed a change. Maybe he had enough of it.

“But I was lucky enough to be in the position of juvenile chairman and I was asked to step up to it so it was a nice honour for me to be able to step up.

 Sarsfields' John Leddy makes a fine catch despite the attention of Glen Rovers' Cillian Connolly, during the Rebel Óg P1 MHC. Picture: David Keane.
Sarsfields' John Leddy makes a fine catch despite the attention of Glen Rovers' Cillian Connolly, during the Rebel Óg P1 MHC. Picture: David Keane.

“I’m hands-on anyway since we took over, myself and our new secretary Alan McNamara, our new treasurer Michael Shanahan, we have all been working closely together to try and bring the club forward again.

“As I said, Tadhg was incredible in getting stuff done and he was superb at fundraising as well and all that kind of stuff.

“Obviously on the field, we had success with the four counties we won in the seven or eight years.

“Our juvenile club is huge, it’s very big so we tap into them as well for a lot of stuff, there’s a lot of people there that are very good as well that put their shoulder to the wheel and that’s important at any club no matter what size it is.” Even though he is new to the role, as is the rest of the committee, Mulcahy has already set his sights on what would be two significant achievements both on and off the field.

Off the field, he feels the club needs to add more pitches to deal with the ever-growing number of youngsters wanting to wear the club’s famous blue, white and black colours.

On the field, the target is clear. “First and foremost we need more counties,” he enthuses. 

Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy
Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

“We haven’t won any now since 2014, we were in the final in 2015 so we need another one soon.

“I think we are in a good place on the field at the moment, we have a lot of good young players coming through.

“I’m not saying we are going to win it this year, hopefully we will, but I certainly think in the next couple of years we will be there or thereabouts. I think we have a good structure in place.

“At the moment we are trying to get a lot of stuff done now, to be honest with you. The pitch is a big problem for us.

“We have only got the one pitch and our astro-turf, we have other pitches which is just a training ground and that is jointly shared with Glanmire football club.

PJ Dennehy, Michael King, Allan McNamara and Cathal O'Connor supporting Sarsfields at Riverstown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
PJ Dennehy, Michael King, Allan McNamara and Cathal O'Connor supporting Sarsfields at Riverstown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“We are closely working with them now to see if we can develop that place which would be very important. It is a long process but we have already set the ball rolling on it.

“They are the two key things for us because there is not much more we can do at our own place in Riverstown.

“In fairness, we have a fabulous pavilion, and the pitch itself is superb. We need to upgrade a few things around the place - general maintenance, fencing, all that kind of stuff - but that’s just everyday stuff.

“We have a Family Fun Day on September 5. It’s the first time we have ever done it and we are lucky to have Stryker supporting us on that.

“We are looking forward to it, it will be a great day for the parents and the kids to come down.

 Flynn O'Brien, Sarsfields, battling Ryan O'Neill, Ballincollig, in Riverstown. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Flynn O'Brien, Sarsfields, battling Ryan O'Neill, Ballincollig, in Riverstown. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

“Every club needs to have a good sponsor and our sponsors, O’Connell Group, have been with us since 1989 and we wouldn’t be able to operate without their great support.

“They are very interested in the club and they have been absolutely superb.”

ABOUT SARSFIELDS GAA CLUB

Nickname: Sars.

Membership: 200 adult and 380 juvenile.

Teams: 4 Adult and Juvenile teams from U6 to minor (2-3 teams at each age). 

Major honours: 6 county Championships, 3 minor championships. U21 A and B. County Junior Championships, Juvenile Championships at all grades. 

Famous players: Micka Brennan, Alan Lotty, Billy O'Neill, William (Bowler) Welsh, Teddy McCarthy, Paddy Barry, John Considine, Bertie Óg Murphy, Tadhg Murphy, Kieran Murphy, Daniel Kearney, Conor O'Sullivan, Pat Ryan, Garvan McCarthy, Jack O'Connor.

John Considine. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
John Considine. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Division: Imokilly 

Facilities: Clubhouse, main pitch, astro and hurling alley in Riverstown. 2 pitches in Buck Leary's cross shared with Glanmire GAA.

Inspiring a new generation

DANIEL KEARNEY has represented Cork at senior level while also reaching seven county finals with Sars, winning four of them.

Kearney has achieved an extraordinary amount in the game and now he is proving to be an inspiration for the next generation of young hurlers.

“I was eight I think when I first started. I used to play with Brian Dillons when I was younger. I had a friend who was down here so I came down for a few sessions.

“It was a senior club at the time and I wanted to play with the best teams. I blame my dad for bringing me down here anyway because I don’t think it went down too well with Brian Dillons.

“But they’re the decisions you make when you are younger and I look back with no regrets,” he insists before declaring; “I think I might have been a better footballer.”

“I’m trying to keep up now with the younger lads. I used to be the fastest and the fittest here but I’m just behind Colm McCarthy a bit now,” laughs Kearney.

Picture: Jim Coughlan
Picture: Jim Coughlan

“But it’s great seeing the younger guys coming through. They lift the standards a bit with their fitness levels and their speed, they raise the bar now like we tried to do when we were younger.

They bring new hunger to it and you are trying to keep up with them so it’s great seeing it come through.” 

Kearney would gladly settle for being the second fastest in the squad though if he can add a fifth county medal to his collection.

“Over the last few years we have been in a transition period, we had a lot of success with older players so we are trying to get new players through now and try to break the ceiling and get another championship win,” he added.

And to think it could have all been so different for the former Cork senior hurler at club level.

Making a mark

COLM McCarthy is one of a number of young, talented hurlers breaking into the ranks of the Sars senior set-up.

He has wasted no time in making his mark at senior level having scored a goal in their recent win over Charleville but he has also helped make a difference on the training pitch.

“Definitely, I would love to have that kind of success I’m not going to lie,” enthuses Colm McCarthy.

“There’s a real buzz in the air when Sars are doing well. I remember when I was eight or nine and Daniel Kearney was winning counties, the entire town was just lighting up and that’s what you really want as a club.”

Tadhg Murphy, Kieran Murphy, Tom O'Donoghue, Bertie Óg Murphy and John Considine, All-Ireland medal winners, in 2016. Picture: Mike English
Tadhg Murphy, Kieran Murphy, Tom O'Donoghue, Bertie Óg Murphy and John Considine, All-Ireland medal winners, in 2016. Picture: Mike English

Sars has been a big part of McCarthy’s life from a very young age and after years of hard work and progressing through the ranks of the Glanmire club, he has now reached the senior squad.

Not only did he make the squad, but was also selected in the starting 15 and recently scored a goal in their important win over Charleville.

“I think I started when I was five or six, I just fell in love with it straight away,” he adds.

The street leagues brought us on a lot, you get a real feel for playing the game at a young age and it helps you develop to where I am now.

“I was in and out of the senior set-up last you because I was injured and stuff like this so this is my first real year of championship and it’s great to be here, it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s intense, and physical but I love it. It’s what you play for. It’s what all the championship games I played U16, U15, U14... it’s what you are working towards, the aim of playing senior.”

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