Ulster Club Junior Football Championship preliminary round
Ballymachugh (Cavan) 0-14
For a second time in two weeks Sarsfield’s suffered defeat and disappointment on the Ulster trail as a tough but never the less successful season finally caught up with them at Breffni Park on Sunday. Two weeks ago they were edged out by a very good Lavey side in the Ulster Intermediate club championship and on Sunday many of the same players were back in football action.
Just a point separated the sides at the break in a cagey first half, but the Cavan champions were much the better side in the second half while the Stewartstown Road men looked jaded in the closing stages.
Both sides also ended the game with 14 players. Kevin McKernan, booked in the first half, was shown a black card for a third-man challenge and couldn’t be replaced. Ballymachugh forward Padraig Galligan then followed him to the line after picking up a straight red for an off-the-ball clash with Daniel McKernan.
Sarsfield’s were forced to make two late changes to their starting 15 with Darragh McGuinness and Caolan Mervyn replaced by Jim McMenamin and Conor Glenholmes.
Ballymachugh made the brighter start with midfielder James Smith and Barry Kiernan hitting early points.
A great run from Sam Walsh drew a free which Kevin McKernan converted to get Sarsfield’s off the mark, but they were cut open by a rampant Ballymachugh side early on.
A free from James Kiernan and another from play from Galligan moved the Cavan men three clear, but they suffered a blow when Richard Fitzsimons was forced to retire with a leg injury.
Sarsfield’s were looking in serious bother when raiding wing-back Dillon Kiernan kicked an excellent point to put his side 0-5 to 0-1 after 13 minutes.
Badly in need of a score, Aaron Brady and Glenholmes combined to set up Gary Lennon for a fine point before Kevin McKernan’s stunning pass found McMenamin to play Glenholmes through on goal.
However, the corner-forward was hauled down on the 14-yard line and McKernan converted the free, but no black card was issued for the cynical foul.
Still, Sarsfield’s had a foothold in the game and, despite Alan Donohoe converting a free for Ballymachugh, the Antrim champions were playing with much purpose.
The Cavan men hit a number of wides in quick succession and Sarsfield’s took full advantage.
Lennon reduced the gap to two points before McKernan squandered a scoreable free. The former quickly made amends to leave the minimum between the sides on the half-hour mark.
The momentum was now firmly with Sarsfield’s and they sought to make it count before the half-time whistle.
An inviting cross-field pass from McKernan was aimed at McMenamin on the edge of the square, but the imposing full-forward narrowly failed to get a touch on the ball to direct towards goals.
Moment later, Sarsfield’s carved out another goal chance when McMenamin and McKernan played through Lennon, but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Darragh Goldrick.
Half-time seemed to arrive at the wrong time for Sarsfield’s with McKernan’s fourth free on 34 minutes arriving in reply to a James Kiernan free at the other end.
The Ballymachugh full-forward became more involved in open play and was a real thorn for Sarsfield’s and he hit back-to-back points to push his side three clear.
When McKernan sliced a routine free off his boot midway through the half, the game looked like it was beginning to slip beyond their reach.
Donohoe’s second point moved Ballymachugh 0-10 to 0-6 ahead.
Worse was to follow when Sarsfield’s captain Niall McAlea was shown a black card for dragging down Barry Kiernan and James Kiernan converted the resulting free.
Another excellent point from wing-back Dillon Kiernan moved his side 0-12 to 0-6 ahead inside the final 10 minutes.
Any hopes of a Sarsfield’s comeback were dashed when McKernan was dismissed on a black card. Having picked up a yellow card in the first half, Tony Smyth was unable to bring on a replacement.
Ballymachugh were reduced to 14 men soon after when Padraig Galligan was shown a straight red by referee James Lewis on the advice of his linesman for an off-the-ball clash which left Daniel McKernan floored.
Kiernan hit a further two frees for his side in the closing stages while Glenholmes chipped in with a late 0-3 for Sarsfield’s.
However, the Paddies were unable to muster a meaningful goal chance in the closing stages as they suffered a five-point loss.
Tempers threatened to spill over at the full-time whistle, but order was quickly restored by the match officials.
Ballymachugh now face Donegal champions Naomh Colmcille on Sunday week while Sarsfield’s will reflect on what was still a memorable double-winning campaign for the West Belfast club.
BALLYMACHUGH: D McGoldrick; G Kelly, Darragh Kiernan, J Coyle; C Rooney, A Baxter, Dillon Kiernan 0-2; L Buchannon, J Smith 0-1; M Kiernan, B Kiernan 0-1, A Donohoe 0-2 (0-1f); R Fitzsimons, J Kiernan 0-7 (0-4fs), P Galligan (0-1).
Subs: S Harton for Fitzsimons (12mins), C Goldrick for M Kiernan (60mins),
SARSFIELD’S: M Brady; M McPolin, A Brady, J Daniels; S Walsh, N McAlea, C Laverty; C Murray, M McKenna; D McKernan, K McKernan 0-4 (0-4fs), T Doherty; G Lennon 0-2, J McMenamin, C Glenholmes 0-3 (0-12).
Subs: C Mervyn for Murray (45mins), K Carson for McAlea (black card replacement, 48mins), N McDonald for Doherty (54mins)
REFEREE: J Lewis (Fermanagh)