Rip roaring county final expected on Sunday

There is a genuine air of anticipation and excitement ahead of Sunday’s novel county final clash between Craughwell and Sarsfields at Kenny Park, Athenry (2.30pm ). 

Both teams have been out of the county final limelight for many years, but Craughwell will have very few, if any, members of the club who can remember their last one.

Former All-Ireland kingpins Sarsfields, when Joe Cooney and Michael "Hopper" McGrath were still in their pomp,  are back in their first county final in 13 years. Stephen Glennon’s Craughwell are in the decider for the first time in 83 years and their last county title was annexed in 1930.

Craughwell were worthy winners over St Thomas in their semi-final joust, having defeated Liam Mellows in their quarter-final.

Galway star Niall Healy was their scoring star in both those victories, hitting 1-11 against St Thomas and 0-12 in the quarter-final, and Sarsfields will be fully aware that if they foul, they will be punished by his unerring accuracy from frees. If they are to win, Healy's influence from frees must be curtailed.

Healy has good support in the scoring department from Jamie Ryan, Fergal Healy, Stephen Hynes and Thomas Monaghan.

Others who will be expected to produce big displays this Sunday if they are to get to the winners enclosure include midfielders Niall Callanan and John Ryan, centre-back Adrian Cullinane, Mark Horan at full back, and Shane Dolan in the corner.

Sarsfields, under the guidance of Cathal Murray, Francis Madden, Padraic Earls and John Hardiman, had a solid victory over Gort in their semi-final and an impressive eight point win over Padraig Pearses in the quarter-final.

They last won the county title in 1997, to add to the other three county titles they won in that decade.

To win on Sunday they will need powerful performances from the likes of inspirational team captain Joseph Cooney, midfielder Thomas Spellman, defensive lynch-pins Darren Skehill, Eamon Cleary and Niall Quinn, and up front,  ace free-taker Niall Morrissey, who shot 0-12 in the semi-final.

Other forwards such as Alan Ward, Noel Kelly and Kerril Wade will also have to be efficient in front of the posts if they are to beat the bookies' favourite.

Craughwell favourites

Sarsfields stuck to their defensive game plan in the semi-final, frustrating and crowding out Gort. They were also watertight against Pearses, and conceded 0-29 in those two games. They will believe that if they can keep their concession of frees to a minimum, hence thwarting Niall Healy's influence, they will have a great chance of a win.

Craughwell are 4/6 to win to lift the cup, with Sarsfields available at 11/10.

The county minor final is also on this Sunday with Clarinbridge and Kilnadeema-Leitrim in action at 12.45pm.

Based on the numbers of players that Clarinbridge had in Jeffrey Lynskey’s All-Ireland winning panel, there would be  temptation to fancy them in that joust.

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