Sars first to depart

SARSFIELDS BECAME the first team to bow out of the race for honours in the Dominic Smith Electrical Senior football championship when Horeswood inflicted a third successive Group A defeat on the town team in Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday.

ore significantly, they now find themselves anxiously awaiting the draw for the relegation series where they will be granted either one or two chances to preserve their status.

The club with the second-longest unbroken sequence in the top flight have overcome several close shaves in recent years, and they will need to show all those battling qualities – and possibly avail of some lady luck, too – in order to survive this time with two teams set for the drop.

As for Horeswood, their relief at booking a preliminary quarter-final spot was obvious on the final whistle, and their win was clearly deserved although it was only made certain at a late stage.

They had kicked the last three points of the opening half to edge into a 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead and, although they goaled early on the restart, Sarsfields replied less than two minutes later to keep matters interesting.

Horeswood had kicked on to lead by 1-9 to 1-5 at the last water break, and the margin was widened to five by county player Seán Nolan – who had his best outing of the group stage – in the 48th minute.

David Gouldson pulled a point back from a free, and five scoreless minutes followed before the Ross District side suffered a double blow that forced them into an anxious finish.

Eoin Roche fed Gouldson who was fouled by Eddie Shiely at the expense of a penalty, with the wing-back departing on a second yellow card before the spot-kick was taken.

Colm O’Dowda trotted up from the other goal and drilled the ball home to make it a one-point game (1-10 to 2-6), filling the Sars with renewed hope.

A draw would have earned them the third spot, whereas Horeswood had to win. And although the 14 men were fighting a rearguard action, they defended well and pounced for their key match-winning scores on breaks towards the town end.

One such move saw substitute Dale Flynn make it 1-11 to 2-6 after good work by Seán Nolan and Danny Byrne-Murphy in the 58th minute, but the most important incident of the lot arrived 70 seconds later.

Declan Murphy – who was full of running as always – spotted a gap and took off at pace through the defensive cover before feeding fellow speed merchant David Larkin, and his second goal was worth its weight in gold.

There was still some hope for Sarsfields entering the last of the three added minutes announced, after pointed frees from Conor Kehoe and netminder O’Dowda left them chasing an equalising goal.

However, the insurance point was posted by Declan Murphy who was initially put through by a long handpass into space by Jamie Myler, only for his shot on goal to be saved.

The game was only 13 seconds old when Seán Nolan gave Horeswood the lead, but that certainly didn’t lead to a free-scoring opening quarter.

The cagey approach from both sides was understandable given that neither had managed a win between them in the first two rounds.

P.J. Banville doubled Horeswood’s lead after a foul on Jamie Myler, but they had to deal with being reduced to 14 men for a spell on either side of the water break after Kevin Parker was sin-binned in the 13th minute.

Conor Kehoe, the liveliest and most threatening Sarsfields forward, finally got them off the mark from a Dylan Furlong pass just before the end of that opening quarter.

And they enjoyed a sustained bright spell when the action resumed, hitting the front for the first time thanks to points from Eoin Roche and Kehoe from a rising shot.

Even after Kevin Parker returned to the fray, a foul on Roche gave David Gouldson the chance to make it 0-4 to 0-2 in the 24th minute.

Jamie Myler and Kehoe went on to swap points and, on the basis of what had gone before, Horeswood would have been more than happy to have edged into a 0-6 to 0-5 lead by half-time.

That came about as a result of three late scores from Seán Nolan, P.J. Banville – his first from play of the championship – and Declan Murphy, after the ball initially appeared to pop out of his grasp in a tackle.

A Banville free made it 0-7 to 0-5 on the restart, and the first big breakthrough arrived for the New Ross District men in the 36th minute.

A Sarsfields player was stripped of possession out the field and Horeswood made the most of the turnover, with Banville feeding the overlapping David Larkin who goaled at the second attempt.

However, they were unable to manage the game effectively in the immediate aftermath of that tonic, instead conceding a goal from the next Sarsfields attack.

Conor Halligan slotted home after decent approach work by Conor Kehoe and Dylan Furlong, ensuring it remained all to play for.

P.J. Banville and Declan Murphy added the next two points for Horeswood, leaving them with four to spare at the last water break.

Goalscorer Larkin showed his defensive qualities when the game resumed, getting a vital hand in near the Clonard end goal to cut out a Sarsfields handpass that may well have led to a goal. Given the events that would transpire afterwards, it proved a very important intervention.

Horeswood will know better than anyone that they are not out of the woods yet, as a preliminary quarter-final loss would see them join Sarsfields in the relegation battle. Nonetheless, this was a marked improvement on their heavy defeats to St. Martin’s and Glynn-Barntown, and they have the players in attack to make a difference.

As for Sarsfields, they have competed in Senior ranks since 1980, and only Castletown have a superior record in terms of longevity, although those bare facts won’t count for anything as they fight for survival again. They won’t know their next opponents until the draw is made after the preliminary quarter-finals conclude next Sunday.

Horeswood: Conor Swaine; Gavin Murphy, Ryan Harris, David Larkin (2-0); Eddie Shiely, Barry Hearn, Kevin Parker; Danny Byrne-Murphy, Shane O’Hanlon; Seán Nolan (0-3), Declan Murphy (0-3), Michael O’Hanlon; Jamie Myler (0-2, 1 free), P.J. Banville (capt., 0-3, 1 free), Joe O’Sullivan. Subs. – Dale Flynn (0-1) for M. O’Hanlon (40), Colin Nolan for O’Sullivan (51), David Murphy for Byrne-Murphy (60+1). Sin-bin: Kevin Parker (13).

Sarsfields: Colm O’Dowda (1-1, 1-0 pen., 0-1 free); Cillian Lawlor, Cathal Kirwan, Ryan Furlong; Dylan Furlong (capt.), Colm Browne, Con Ó Donnagáin; Seán Ó Corcora, Ciarán Kirwan; Stuart Hession, Eoin Roche (0-1), Conor Halligan (1-0); Michael Hanrahan, Conor Kehoe (0-4, 1 free), David Gouldson (0-2 frees). Subs. – Adam Carroll for Ó Donnagáin (33), Andrew Harrington for Ó Corcora (38), Conall Clancy for Halligan (39), Halligan for Hession (43).

Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).

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