Intermediate Hurling Championship Final
Patrick Sarsfields 0-16 Carey Faughs 1-7
Kevin McKernan punches air after sending over a Sarsfields point. Pic by John McIlwaine
By Brendan McTaggart
43 years. A long time in any man’s books and more than a lifetime for many of those in attendance at Armoy on Saturday afternoon but by 4:20pm they were made to wait no more. Sarsfields, county champions. 1973 was the last time the Paddies tasted success at the Intermediate level before going on and taking senior honours the following year and on Saturday evening they broke their duck. Six points separated the Paddies and Carey after a tense battle played in horrible conditions in Armoy. To be honest the score line flattered the Faughs as Sarsfields were dominant, in the second half in particular, but a series of wides and missed opportunities meant that the Faughs were always in with a shout.
Just one point separated the sides with 15 minutes to go, largely down to the profligacy of the Sarsfileds attack but the McKernan brothers, Kevin and Daniel stepped up the tempo when it was most needed. The duo had been a thorn in the side of Carey for the majority of the match but they, along with Niall McKenna and Darragh McGuinness were immense in the closing stages as the Paddies turned the screw. Carey fought hard throughout the hour and once again, James ‘Rocket’ Black was a shining light for the men from Ballyvoy. Rocket was played in a number of positions throughout the hour and played a main roll in a lot that was good in the Carey men. James McCouaig was superb in defence while Cathal ‘Doog’ McAuley was always dangerous on the edge of the Paddies square.
The Faugh’s were reduced to 14 men with nine minutes remaining, their excellent full-back Sean McBride getting the line for a second yellow card but the writing was already on the wall at that stage for Carey.
With Donal McKernan unable to start the final with a leg injury, Sarsfields gave a Eoghan Rodgers a place in the starting 15. Rodgers lined out in the corner forward berth but was Rockets shadow throughout the game, anywhere the influential Carey man went, Rodgers wasn’t too far behind.
With the weather worsening at the throw in, it looked like the heavy underfoot conditions would suit the Faughs and in the early exchanges that appeared to be the case as the boys from Ballyvoy got off to the dream start. The match was only 90 seconds old when the Faughs scored the only goal of the game. Sarsfields ‘keeper David Ward failing to clear a ’65 from Black that hung in the wind, McAuley pulling the lose sliotar to the back of the net. The start they would have hoped for and the start that many neutrals would have been keen to see. Despite Carey playing in a league above the Paddies in 2017, Sarsfields started the match as strong favourites. Game on.
Daniel McKernan showed his pedigree when he opened the Paddies account with the next attack of the game but Carey’s dream start almost changed to a fairy-tale for the men from Ballyvoy when they were awarded a penalty in the 4th minute. Again, it was McAuley who was causing the Sarsfileds defence problems. The Carey full forward collected the sliotar before being bundled to the floor inside the square. Match referee Colum Cunning awarded the Faughs a penalty which McAuley took himself, electing to drive the sliotar over the bar, much to the relief of the Sarsfields faithful, a decision that baffled most of the Faughs followers.
It was a reprieve for Sarsfields, in hindsight maybe going for goal with less pressure and in the circumstances was better option for Carey and the Paddies took full advantage. They scored four unanswered points thanks to efforts from McKenna, Darragh McGuinness and two Kevin McKernan frees to take the lead and while Black replied for the Faugh’s, Sarsfields were well on top, scoring another trio of scores to lead by three in the 22nd minute and banish any memory of their nightmare start. McKenna, Kevin McKernan and Niall McAlea raising the white flags for their side. McAuley and Kevin McKernan traded frees in the closing stages but the Sarsfields midfielder should have put daylight between the sides in first half injury time. Through on goal, Steven McGinn produced a superb save to deny the Paddies and while McKernan was also first to the rebound, his grounds stroke somehow managed to spin wide with the goal at his mercy.
The Faugh’s made a bright start to the second half with McAuley landing two more frees to take his tally to 1-4 for the match to leave the minimum between the sides and while Sarsfields always looked dangerous in attack, they were struggling to find their range.
The Paddies had goal chances, twice they were denied with referee Cunning calling a square ball on Gary Lennon on both occasions while the Sarsfields full forward brought the best out of McGinn in the 40th minute but a superb score from McKenna after a strong run was all they had to show for their efforts in the opening exchanges of the second half.
A long range point from half back Jack McBride brought Carey to within touching distance once more but Sarsfields found another gear when it mattered most. Five unanswered points in as many minutes from the 46th minute put them firmly in control, Kevin McKernan with his fifth and sixth points of the final with Daniel McKernan (twice) and substitute Donal McKernan helping to open a six point gap with ten minutes remaining.
The Carey challenge hit a major road block when full back Sean McBride received his second yellow card soon after and while the Faughs never slackened in their pursuit of glory, Sarsfields proved to be a step too far. McAuley and McKenna exchanging frees in the closing stages to leave six points between the sides at the full time whistle.
It’s another final defeat for the Faughs who have been knocking hard on the door for the last few years, it seems it’s only a matter of time before they make the breakthrough while the Paddies go on to represent Antrim in the Ulster championship and will be hoping that Saturday’s silverware will be added to when their football counterparts take on St Pat’s of Lisburn in the Junior football decider next Saturday.
Sarsfields: David Ward; Peter Corr; James Cunningham; Jack Daniels; Michael Callaghan; Caolan Mervyn; Caillin Caldwell; Kevin McKernan; Darragh McGuinness; Daniel McKernan; Niall McKenna; Niall McAlea; James McKernan; Gary Lennon; Eoghan Rodgers
Subs: Donal McKernan for M Callaghan (35 mins)
Scorers: Kevin McKernan 0-6 (2 frees); Niall McKenna 0-4 (1 free); Danial McKernan 0-3; Darragh McGuinness 0-1; Niall McAlea 0-1; Donal McKernan 0-1
Carey: Steven McGinn; Eoin Hill; Sean McBride; Daniel Hill; Michael McVeigh; James McCouaig; John McBride; Kevin Murphy; James Black; Shea Hunter; Nat Hunter; Martin Hunter; Peadar McVeigh; Cathal McAuley; Sean McLoughlin
Subs: Fiachra McVeigh for K Murphy (HT); Gerard McBride for S McLoughlin (50 mins); Daniel McBride for J McBride (inj)
Scorers: Cathal McAuley 1-5 (0-1 pen, 4 frees); James Black 0-1 (1 free); John McBride 0-1
Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)