Even with only a few minutes to go last Sunday afternoon in Kenny Park and with both sides vying for their first senior title in a long time, and nothing between the sides on the scoreboard, there was a really muted atmosphere in the ground. There was barely a murmur on the packed terraces and the stand was never in any potential danger of being shook to the rafters.
The reality was that there was a real “Driving Miss Daisy” feel to the occasion, with no genuine buzz or frisson of excitement which was disappointing.Watching referee John Keane repeatedly throwing the ball into a huge ruck of players as the game ticked down the two minutes of injury time allocated, summed up in many ways the fare that had been on offer for most of the preceding sixty minutes.
Lots of honest effort. Lots of huffing and puffing, but a dearth of goals or scintillating action sucked the energy from the large crowd.
Constant crowding. Handling errors. Withdrawn forwards. Misplaced passes. Few (if any ) clear cut goal chances. And a general level of mediocrity in open play was the order of the day and the mood spread quickly to the terraces. Let’s be honest, supporters can only feed off the excitement generated on the pitch and with both sides playing a sweeper at the back and forwards finding it very difficult to get any traction on a wet and slightly dug up pitch – good quality open hurling and goal chances were few and far between.
Free takers to the fore
It was no real surprise that the majority of scores in the entire contest came from frees, with Sarsfield’s Niall Morrissey hitting 0-8 from placed balls, and Craughwell’s Niall Healy raising six white flags (0-5fs ). The game ended 0-12 apiece, however at half-time Sarsfields looked the more likely winners, leading by 0-8 to 0-3, with a slight wind advantage and there had been a tad more urgency in their play.
Stephen Glennon’s Craughwell started the second half very well with full-forward Alan Callanan who was a handful throughout getting in for a quick point and Healy notching a free. Ger O’ Halloran and county minor star Tomás Monaghan also hit two good points and it was even-steven at 0-9 each going into the last quarter.
The fact that there was just three more points from both sides in the next 17 or 18 minutes highlights the reality that defences were on top and it is difficult to remember any real goal scoring opportunities from either side.
In light of the shortage of genuine high quality at times – apart from some excellent free taking - on offer last weekend, both sides and their management teams will be pleased to get another bite of the cherry on Sunday week in Pearse Stadium (1.45pm ).
Craughwell team manager Stephen Glennon who is in his third year as Bainisteoir pointed out after the game that both sides will relish the opportunity to have another crack at lifting the Tom Callanan Cup in ten days’ time.
“The way the two teams battled for the entire game, you could see both wanted it really badly,” said Glennon.
“Perhaps we were too uptight in trying to stop the opposition from scoring. It was just a tight game. It will stand to both sides, and it might open up a little bit more in the replay.
“Somebody said there that we haven’t been in a final in 83 years and now we have two in a week or so. So I think that is a great way of looking at it, and a positive way of looking at it. We will go back and have a look at what we did right and what we did wrong.
“There are plenty of positives to be taken, and plenty of areas of our game that we feel that we have to tighten up on,” added Glennon.
From Sarsfields point of view, they will know that they need some more scoring support for the excellent Niall Morrissey up front if they are to go on and collect their first county title since 1997.
Sarfields: C Dolan; C Murray, D Skehill, D Murray; N Quinn, R Quinn, E Cleary (0-1 ); K Hynes, I Fox; N Morrissey (0-8, all frees ), J Cooney (0-1 ), N Kelly; I Skehill, K Wade (0-1 ), A Ward (0-1 ).
Subs: I Kenny for Fox, K Cooney for Wade.
Craughwell: A Ryan; S Dolan, I Daniels, M Monaghan; M Horan, A Cullinane, John Ryan; N Callanan, G O’Halloran (0-2 ); S Hynes, N Healy (0-6, 5 frees ), Jamie Ryan; T Monaghan (0-1 ), A Callanan (0-3, F Healy.
Subs: K Cullinane for S Hynes.
Ref: J. Keane (Rahoon/Newcastle )