Pic by Joe Carberry
Sarsfields 2-17-3-16 Lavey
By Kevin Herron
Five goals inside the opening seventeen minutes set the tone for a thrilling game that Sarsfields came out the wrong side of, as the Stewartstown Park sides dreams of Ulster Intermediate glory were ended by Derry champions Lavey on a score line of 3-16-2-17.
In truth it was very much an epic shoot-out between free takers Kevin McKernan and Paddy Henry of Lavey, Henry outscored McKernan 0-09-0-08 on the free front in a game which saw both sides reduced to fourteen men as Chrissy Henry and Callin Caldwell were shown red-cards in either half.
Both sides were evidently nervy early on and it took five minutes for the opening score to arrive and it was a dream start for Antrim champions Sarsfields as Gary Lennon’s short shot was flicked to the net by Jim McKernan to settle his side’s nerves.
Lavey replied instantly as Chrissy Henry picked out the darting run of half-forward Cailean O’Boyle who advanced and fired past David Ward to make it a goal apiece after six minutes.
There was barely enough time for the crowd at Davitt Park to catch their breath before the green flag as raised again, Niall McKenna floated a dangerous ball on top of Lavey goalkeeper Michael Taggart and the Derry men’s defensive frailties were exposed again through Thomas Doherty who got the faintest of touches upon McKenna’s delivery to make it 2-00-1-00.
Liam Murphy and goal scorer O’Boyle landed the opening two points of the contest to reduce the deficit to the bare minimum, but Kevin McKernan let fly with an effort which sailed over the bar to make it 2-01-1-02 after ten minutes.
Lavey then survived another hairy moment as scorer of the opening goal; Jim McKernan saw his low shot come back off the inside of the post and out to safety.
In the aftermath Ben Dodd’s reduced arrears again and on twelve minutes the sides were level thanks to a converted Paddy Henry free.
McKernan and Henry traded the next two scores from placed balls and just after the midway point in the half, Lavey seized a firm grip on the contest.
On 16 minutes a free flowing passing move in Sarsfields box saw Liam Murphy pick out the run of Cailean O’Boyle who flicked the ball goal wards and corner-forward Sam Dodd’s made sure of the goal was an unopposed flick into the net to move his side 2-05-2-02 ahead.
Within a minute the Derry champions were on the front foot again and Dodd’s picked out Cailean O’Boyle who hammered low into the corner of the net past David Ward to give Lavey a 3-05-2-02 lead.
McKernan led Sarsfields response with a converted free and in the aftermath the Stewartstown Park men were given a boost when Lavey’s Chrissy Henry upended McKernan. Having already been booked a clash between the pair inside the opening sixty seconds, referee Aidan Ferguson showed Henry a second yellow card and a subsequent red as Lavey were reduced to fourteen men.
Paddy Henry restored his side’s six-point lead however, landing a fabulous point from play. The sides then traded scores through McKernan; who slotted over after some fine work from Jack Daniels and a free from Henry in response.
The McKernan show continued as Kevin converted free and Daniel became the third McKernan on a score sheet for Sarsfields, conjuring a fine score from range. Sam Dodd’s responded with a point before the break for Lavey as the Derry champions led 3-08-2-06 despite their numerical disadvantage.
Within a minute of the restart the player count was level after Sarsfield’s Callin Caldwell was adjudged to have struck out at Ben Dodds off the ball and was subsequently shown a straight red-card by Ferguson.
In a double whammy for the Paddies, Paddy Henry converted the resulting free to increase Lavey’s lead.
Kevin McKernan [free] and Daniel McKernan landed the next two scores reduce arrears to four-points, though Cailean O’Boyle popped the ball over the bar to make it a five-point game once more, 2-08-3-10.
The pendulum would shift in favour of Sarsfields in the aftermath of O’Boyle’s 36 minute point, and in the space of just over ten minutes the sides were locked on level terms at 2-14-3-11.
Kevin McKernan was behind the majority of the damage, converting four placed balls with the other two points coming from Jim and Daniel McKernan. In between times Paddy Henry converted a free though Lavey were playing second fiddle and the momentum was firmly with the Paddies.
The Antrim champions couldn’t get themselves in the driving seat however and Conor Dillon converted a 49th minute free to give his a one-point lead.
McKernan replied at the other end from the placed ball to level for the fourth time in the contest, but with five minutes to go Paddy Henry kept his nerve and converted his sixth free of the afternoon to edge his side 3-13-2-15 ahead.
McKernan landed his eighth placed ball of the contest in response and both sides’ main men would trade further scores in the aftermath as Henry nudged his side ahead from a free; McKernan landed a wonderful score from play in response to level affairs with injury-time looming.
In the final minute of normal time Sarsfields gave away yet another scoreable free, from which Henry made no mistake. There was to be no response on this occasion however as Lavey turned David Wards resulting puck out over and went back on the attack, another free came to fruitarian and Henry scored the last of his ten points.
The Derry county star spurned a further free in the dying embers of injury-time but it proved irrelevant as his side ran out 3-16-2-17 winners at the end of an absorbing game in Lurgan.
Although Sarsfields will feel incredibly disappointed that they failed to advance they can hold their heads high in a year that has saw them seal promotion back to Division two and land their first championship crown in 43-years.
As many as eleven of Sarsfields hurlers will now focus firmly on their sides Ulster Junior Football Quarter-final with Cavan champions Ballymachugh at Breffni Park next Sunday (12.45 throw-in) while Lavey will look forward to their Ulster final clash with Armagh champions Middletown.
Sarsfields: D Ward, P Corr, J Cunningham, J Daniels, D Johnston, C Mervyn, C Caldwell, K McKernan (0-13,0-08f), E Rodgers, D McKernan (0-02), N McKenna, N McAlea, J McKernan (1-01), G Lennon, T Doherty (1-00). Subs: Donal McKernan for J Cunningham (22 mins).
Lavey: M Taggart, E McGill, D McPeake, S Lagan, A Toner, D O’Neill, S McGill, C Dillon (0-01), P Henry (0-10,0-09f), C Murphy , C O’Boyle (2-01), R Farren, L Murphy (0-01), B Dodds (0-01), S Dodds (1-01). Subs: N Toner for L Murphy (31 mins), M Drumm for S Dodds (45 mins), R Farren for A Toner (53 mins), K O’Neill for B Dodds (56 mins).
Referee: Aidan Ferguson (Fear Manach)
Pics by Joe Carberry