Sarsfields remain on course for another title.
Sarsfields hit twelve points without reply in the closing quarter at The Ragg today for a comfortable 1-24 to 1-15 win over Upperchurch-Drombane that keeps them on track for qualification for the knock-out stages of the Tipperary Water county senior hurling championship.
Comfortable in the finish yes, but for three quarters of the contest Upperchurch were right there with their rivals and the prospect of a shock result was a distinct possibility. However, Upperchurch squandered four good chances early in the second half to extend their three points half-time advantage, and having battled so earnestly for so long, faded surprisingly tamely when the champions raised their game in the closing quarter.
In recent years Upperchurch have run Sarsfields very closely and their followers in the large attendance were hoping they might at last chalk up a win over The Blues who are chasing their fifth county final success in a row this term. It was not to be however, and though Sarsfields did not play up to par, they still carried too much fire-power for the challengers.
Having been given a walk-over by Carrick Swans in the first round, this second win for Sarsfields means that a draw against Drom-Inch in their final game will suffice to see them through to the business end of the championship but they will not need to be told that they will have to do much better than this if they are to make it a record-equalling five titles on the trot.
It was tight enough early on with forwards stretching the defences on the lively sod and Conor Stakelum’s goal after nine minutes put Sarsfields 1-3 to 0-3 ahead. Upperchurch were not abashed by that setback and Jack Butler punished slack defending with a goal to level the game at 1-5 each after 16 minutes. Colm Stapleton was giving Sarsfields defence a lot of problems but with Padraic Maher a towering figure at the heart of the Thurles defence, and Pa Bourke looking razor-sharp in attack, the holders went 1-8 to 1-5 clear after 20 minutes.
Again no sign of wilting in the Upperchurch performance and it was they who dominated the closing ten minutes of the half racking up six unanswered points for a 1-12 to 1-9 lead at the break, Pat Shortt(3), Paul Shanahan, Niall Grant, and Michael lee who had come on as a sub, being the marksmen.
Upperchurch were sitting pretty and while a Sarsfields response was expected there was no sign of it in the early stages of the second half as Upperchurch continued to carry the fight to their rivals. Four scorable chances were wasted by The Church in the third quarter which would have really put them in a winning position but they did maintain their half-time advantage with a three points lead going into the last quarter.
Aidan McCormack, Steven Cahill, Pa Bourke and Padraic Maher were the driving forces as Sarsfields upped the tempo in the closing quarter, a period that yielded them twelve points without reply and which saw Upperchurch heads drop as the scores were whipped over in impressive style.
A nine points win flattered Sarsfields but once they settled into a rhythm they stamped their authority on the game and the longer it went on the more they were going to win by. They were without Ronan Maher, who was in America, the injured Billy McCarthy, Lar Corbett, Conor Lanigan and Jack Derby and while their absence stretched their resources , they had enough in hands to get the job done, albeit in less than convincing fashion.
Padraic Maher and Pa Bourke were outstanding for the winners but Aidan McCormack, Stephen Cahill, Denis Maher, Conor Stakelum, and Michael Cahill, late on, also made significant contributions.
With a win over Drom-Inch in the first round under their belts, Upperchurch are almost sure to figure in the shake-up for knock-out places. Their remaining game is against Carrick Swans and the form they showed for three quarters of this encounter suggests they should add to their points tally. They were without Gavin Ryan and Colm Ryan, and Paul Ryan is in America. On top of that they had Diarmuid Grant and Michael Lee carrying injuries which prevented them starting.
Under John Ryan’s management they have developed into a formidable side and at full strength they will test any opposition. There was much to admire about the hurling of Matt Ryan, James Barry, Niall Grant, Jack Butler and Paul Shanahan but Colm Stapleton was their top performer and a huge threat to Sarsfields, particularly in the opening half.
Sarsfields scorers – P Bourke(0-8), A McCormack(0-6), S Cahill(0-5), C Stakelum(1-1), S Lillis(0-2), P Maher, R Dwan(0-1 each);
Upperchurch scorers - J Butler(1-2), P Shortt(0-4), C Stapleton(0-3), P Shanahan, M Lee, N Grant(0-2 each);
Sarsfields- Patrick McCormack; Michael Purcell, Denis Maher, Cathal Moloney; Stephen Lillis, Padraic Maher, David Corbett; John Maher, Michael Cahill; Rory Purcell, Rory Dwan, Aidan McCormack; Pa Bourke, Conor Stakelum, Stephen Cahill; Sub- Stephen Maher for John Maher;
Upperchurch-Drombane – Ciaran Shortt; Ger Grant, Matt Ryan, Dean Carew; James Greene, James Barry, John Ryan; Niall Grant, Padraig Greene; Pat Shortt, Jack Butler, Colm Stapleton; Eoin Shortt, Paul Shanahan, Loughlin Ryan; Subs - Michael Lee for E Shortt; Diarmuid Grant for N Grant; Michael Lavery for Dean Carew;
Ref- Philip Kelly, Ballinahinch.