Sarsfields v Carey – The captain’s view

Belief the key for Paddies captain

By Brendan McTaggart

Caillin Caldwell wrote his name in Sarsfields folklore on Saturday afternoon by captaining the Paddies to the Intermediate championship and breaching a 43 year gap for the club from their last piece of hurling championship silverware.  After receiving the trophy, the Sarsfields Captain told us that his sides confidence coming into the match was built upon their brilliant league campaign: “It was terrible conditions and we had to dig deep.  We were very confident coming into the game and obviously the conditions were poor but we knew from the word go that we were the better team with having the unbeaten run throughout the year.  We were confident that we could continue our unbeaten run.”

The Paddies were put onto the backfoot in the opening moments of Saturday’s final after Cathal McAuley’s goal.  Caldwell gave us an interesting view on the start to the match when he told us: “We just plugged on.  We knew it was a fluke but that’s hurling.  It was very unlucky on our behalf and lucky on theirs but we knew that if we backed ourselves we could get the scored to get over the line.”

The conditions certainly didn’t help either side when it came to their styles and Caldwell told us that he was pleased how his side reacted to the changing circumstances: “It was tougher for the younger, lighter guys but the older and bigger guys stood up when they were needed today but I thought it was a real team performance today and all 15 players that started and subs used contributed to a great victory.”

Just three points separated the sides at the interval and Caldwell added that the message was clear at half time: “There was no panicking at half time.  Some guys were getting worked, me included, up with the adrenaline but once we knew that if we got our heads in the right place and remained cool, calm and collected that we would be get over the line.  We’ve known nothing but winning this year and we wanted to keep it that way.”

It could be the first step in a historic duo for the Paddies and Caldwell told us that they are confident of delivering: “Football next weekend and hopefully we can make it a double.  This one’s for the fans as much as it is for the players, they’ve been brilliant all year and if we win next week then history will be made.

“We have a lot of dual players but we’re young, fit and very confident.”

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Sarsfields captain Cailin Caldwell and Carey captain Nathanial Hunter with match referee Colm Cunning before the Intermediate Hurling final in Armoy. Pic by John McIlwaine

Hunter has no complaints

Carey Captain Nat Hunter was a broken man leaving the Armoy ground.  He stood by his team as Sarsfields Captain Caillin Caldwell gave his speech and lead them off the pitch when he was finished.  Leading from the front as he has done all year for the Faughs.  He told us of his obvious disappointment and where he felt the match got away from them: “It’s very disappointing.  We thought we were coming into this game today as the hungrier team and better prepared but obviously Sarsfields were the better team on the day.  They showed more hunger and they were more disciplined than us.  I think that’s what got them over the line.”

After scoring a goal with just two minutes played and presented with another major chance when Cathal McAuley was fouled for a penalty, the Faughs Captain told us that he felt McAuley electing for a point from the penalty was the correct decision: “We got the dream start and I think that with it being so early on that the point was the right option from the penalty with the conditions.  It was the right decision at the time.  The better team won on the day, we thought we were better prepared than we were but we’ve got a young panel coming up through and we’ll be back again.”

Just three points separated the sides at the interval and Hunter told us that his side needed to be more clinical in the opening exchanges after the restart: “We came out at half time thinking that if we could get the first couple of scores then we could put them under pressure but we missed a couple of frees and a couple of chances came and gone.  Maybe if we got them then it would have been a different story but they were more clinical in the end under the conditions and we can have no complaints.”




McKernans to the fore as Sarsfields bridge 43 year gap

Intermediate Hurling Championship Final

Patrick Sarsfields 0-16 Carey Faughs 1-7

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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)

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Sarsfields start favourites but Carey will be confident they can upset the odds

Brendan Butler championship Advert copy

By John McIlwaine

Sarsfields go it into Saturday’s Intermediate Hurling final as hot favourites after a season that has seen them show the kind of form that we expect from such a club. Admittedly they have been playing their hurling in a division below Sunday’s opponents Carey but after a slow start in Division 3&4 they have steadily improved and now sit top of the table with games in hand on all of their opponents. In the early days of the league their involvement in the football league meant there was early fixtures that they were unable to fulfil, but when the early pace setters in the league began to slip up, the Paddies carried on their unbeaten run and though they still have a few game to play they are assured of promotion and are almost certain to go up as champions.

The Faughs on the other hand have gone the other way, all be it in a much tougher league. Narrow defeats in the opening two games left them with a mountain to climb, but after successive wins over Glenariffe and Cloney Gaels they appeared to have found their form and looked set for a good campaign. However home and away defeats to neighbours Armoy was a bad blow and though they bounced back from that second defeat to the Glen Rovers with a big win over Tir na nOg in mid August, a bad defeat at the hands of champions St John’s at Corrigan Park last Sunday saw the trap door open and they dropped to Division 3.

Luckily for the Faughs their Championship form has been much better and after a very shaky start in their quarter final against Glenariffe they produced a brilliant comeback to beat the Oisins convincingly and book a semi-final spot. In that semi-final they were dealt a blow when they had midfielder Patrick Butler sent off in the opening minute, but they played some great hurling to see off the challenge of Tir na nOg. They were brilliant during the first half of that game as they opened up a seven point lead by half time, a lead they maintained to the end of the third quarter. However Tir na nÓg’s extra man began to tell and with the Randalstown men improving by the minute they were relieved to hear the final whistle with two points to spare.

Sarsfields started their championship campaign with a win over Belfast neighbours St Gall’s at Rossa Park in a game that had been delayed for two weeks because of a bereavement in the Sarsfields club. Despite the fact that St Gall’s had been playing their hurling in a higher division this season the Paddies held the upper hand for most of the game and though they won in the end by five points the win was even more convincing than the scoreboard suggested. Because of the delay in their quarter-final they were back in action just three days later against St Enda’s in the semi-final at Corrigan Park. An early scrambled goal put the Paddies in the driving seat and with the McKernans, Kevin, Daniel and Donal all to the fore they booked their final spot with a bit to spare.

Saturday’s showdown will depend a lot on the key men on each side and how they perform on the big day. For Sarsfields county players Niall McKenna and Daniel McKernan have been the driving force, as indeed has Kevin McKernan who has showed the kind of form which made him an automatic choice on the Antrim team just a couple of years ago. McKenna picked up a bad hand injury a few weeks ago and is still a major doubt, but I will be surprised if he doesn’t make an appearance at some stage.

Carey will look to the likes of former county player James McCuaig, Sean McBride and his brother John in defence. James ‘Rocket’ Black has been brilliant at midfield in their two previous championship games and when he is on form there is no finer player in this division. His tussle with Kevin McKernan could be crucial. Up front the Faughs will look to the likes of Fiachra McVeigh, Cathal ‘Doog’ McAuley and the mercurial talent of Shea Hunter for the scores. Hunter only came on in the final minutes against Tir na nÓg because of injury but still got a vital score to seal the win at the end. While last week’s heavy league defeat, and the subsequent relegation, will have knocked Carey back on their heels it will all be forgotten come Saturday when the men from Ballyvoy will take inspiration from their championship run so far. Both good wins against good opponents, and both in Armoy. They will be back there again on Saturday and though their opponents look strong, and start as favourites, I see this being a much tighter game than a lot of people are predicting. It could all come down to the free taking of Sarsfields Daniel McKernan and Carey’s Doog McAuley to decide the destination of the trophy.