Heart. Skill. Determination. Passion. Heartbreak. Ecstasy.

Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final

Pádraig Sairséil 1-20 Carey Faughs 3-17

By Liam Tunney@UnitUpdates

Páirc Rossa overflowed with all of the above as Carey Faughs sprung an upset on Sarsfield’s to reach the Andersonstown Social Club Antrim IHC Final after 80 minutes of the highest-octane championship hurling.

The Paddies had played with the wind in the first half but failed to take advantage of the elements, hitting 11 wides and only mustering a single-point lead at the break, Conor McBride’s long-range goal keeping Carey in touch.

After a breathless second half, it looked like Caillin Caldwell’s effort had sealed the Sarsfield’s victory, but a late, late John McBride free from his own 45m line sent the tie to extra time, where the Glens side pulled clear in the final minutes.

Just 3 minutes into the match Sarsfield’s had opened up a two-point lead, a Kevin McKernan effort preceding Niall McKenna’s first of eleven points, but Carey battled back with points from John and Conor McBride to level matters on 7 minutes.

0-03 without reply followed for the Paddies as a brace of Niall McKenna frees and a neat finish from Niall McAlea opened up some daylight between the sides, but a James Black rocket from the right-hand side and a long-range James McCuaig effort saw the Faughs reduce the deficit to one.

Loose tackling in defence was hurting Carey with Niall McKenna in inspired form from placed balls, adding another brace either side of a James Black score, before Man of the Match Conor McBride hit the first half’s crucial score in the 21st minute.

Sent clear by a neat John McBride hand pass, the corner forward galloped down the left flank and unleashed a low effort from 25 yards that bobbled on the turf into the bottom right corer of David Ward’s net to give Carey the lead.

Buoyed by the goal, there was a visible tenacity about the Faugh’s defence and it took Sarsfield’s five minutes to hit back through a long-range Kevin McKernan free.

Further points followed from McKenna and Ryan Carson before James McCuaig brought the first half to a close with his second of the afternoon.

It took only 2 minutes of the second half for Carey to wrestle back the lead, Cathal McAuley pulling to the net after the Sarsfield’s defence failed to deal adequately with a high ball.

Two further points from Conor McBride opened up a four-point lead for the Faughs over a visibly rocked Sarsfield’s side, but Niall McKenna continued his battle with James McCuaig by winning and pointing a free to get the Paddies off the mark.

The sequence was repeated six minutes later as McKenna notched a further free, before James Black restored Carey’s three-point lead, racing through and pointing off the hurl from close-range.

The Faughs then suffered a blow on 50 minutes as James McCuaig received his second yellow card, referee Kevin Parke ordering him off. James Black fired over his 4th point of the day on the run in defiant response but it took just 6 minutes for McCuaig’s sending off to be punished accordingly.

Breaking free of a ruck, Ryan Carson got a run at the Carey defence and finished low inside Chrissy Butler’s near post to level the scoreline with four minutes to play.

Sean McLaughlin responded by slotting the Faughs back into the lead, but another Niall McKenna free restored parity and the tension rose sharply as Parke indicated six minutes of stoppage time.

Conor McBride welcomed the start of injury time with a fine score to give his side the lead again, but Niall McKenna wriggled free of Michael McVeigh to feed Caillin Caldwell, the centre back firing over to equalise on 63 minutes.

In the final minute of injury time, Sarsfield’s found Niall McAlea in space on the right and his driving run ended with a flick back for Ryan Carson to split the posts to raucous cheers from the Paddies’ line.

There was yet more drama to come.

Carey worked their puck out short and were awarded a free on their own 45m line and up stepped the nerveless John McBride to hammer the ball over the black spot as the crowd on the hill watched in disbelief.

The Faughs were able to start extra time with the full complement of fifteen on the pitch, but it was Sarsfield’s who seized the initiative having regained wind advantage.

Niall McKenna pointed a free from almost the same position as John McBride minutes earlier, before the centre-forward hurled another effort over the Carey crossbar.

Unruffled, the Faughs roared forward again, Caolan McCaughan seeing his low drive beaten away by David Ward in the Paddies net before Carey ended the half with two Conor McBride frees to leave the sides level after 70 minutes.

It took five minutes of the second period before the deadlock was broken, substitute Martin Hunter judging the wind well to loop over a neat score before Caolan McCaughan followed suit with a long-range effort from midfield.

Sarsfield’s responded with a 78th minute 65 to leave just one between them, but as the seconds ticked away, Conor McBride latched onto a long ball and pulled it to the net on the bounce as the Carey sideline erupted in the kind of unbridled joy that championship hurling can release.

There was still time for a Paddies response and Niall McAlea finished the afternoon’s scoring with an acrobatic flick on a high ball looping over the bar, but Parke’s whistle brought to the end what was arguably the game of the season so far.

A superb 2-06 from Conor McBride saw him clinch the Man of the Match award, but Niall McKenna will be devastated to have finished on the losing side having hit 0-11 and starred in the match.

The cliché of neither side deserving to lose rang true but both were equally gracious in victory and defeat, but the beaming smiles of the Carey players and management carried them off the pitch and into a final meeting with Naomh Éanna.

Pádraig Sairséil: David Ward, Jack Daniels, James Cunningham, Kevin Ward, Niall McAlea (0-02), Caillin Caldwell (0-01), James McKernan, Eoghan Rodgers, Kevin McKernan (0-01, 0-02f), Gary Lennon, Niall McKenna (0-03, 0-08f), Ryan Carson (1-02), Daniel McKernan, Mark Rea, Caolan McKernan.

Subs: Aran Stewart for Mark Rea 41’, Brendan McGibbon for Daniel McKernan 43’, Malachy Campbell for Aran Stewart 46’, Niall McDonald for Brendan McGibbon (Blood Sub) 72’

Carey Faughs: Chrissy Butler, Kevin Murphy, Sean McBride, Patrick Gillan, Peadar McVeigh, James McCuaig (0-02f), Michael McVeigh, Colm McBride, Sean McLaughlin (0-01), Caolan McCaughan (0-01), John McBride (0-01, 0-01f), James Black (0-04), Fiachra McVeigh, Cathal McAuley (1-00), Conor McBride (2-03, 0-03f).

Subs: Paddy Butler for Colm McBride 34’, Cathair Brogan for Fiachra McVeigh 55’, Martin Butler (0-01) for Sean McLaughlin 59’, Darren McGowan for Cathal McAuley 71’, Dan Martin for Cathair Brogan 73’, Sean McLaughlin for James Black 77’.

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)

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