Galway hurling finalists live to fight another day
Craughwell and Sarsfields must meet again after tight encounter ends in draw
Joseph Cooney of Sarsfields and Niall Healy of Craughwell battle for possession in yesterdays Galway Senior Hurling Championship Final. Photograph: Mike Shaughnessy/Inpho
A draw was probably the best outcome to a Galway club hurling final between neighbours that never opened up in wintry conditions at Kenny Park in Athenry.
Both sides could have snatched victory in the closing stages, with Craughwell, appearing in their first final in 83 years, edging in front for the first time with five minutes left.
However, Sarsfields’ reliable free-taker Niall Morrissey hit back a minute later to steer over his eighth free from nine attempts and ensure a first draw in the Galway final since 2010.
“We showed super character against the breeze to come back and get the equaliser and we are delighted to fight another day,” said Sarsfields’ selector Francis Madden.
The replay is likely to take place on Sunday week and yesterday’s crowd of about 6,000 will be hoping for a more fluid encounter between two sets of players who will benefit from having a first county final under their belt.
Craughwell manager Stephen Glennon said that neither side will be as uptight the next day. “The way the two teams battled, you could see both wanted it really bad. Maybe we were too uptight in trying to stop the opposition from scoring. It was just a tight game. It will stand to both, and it might open up a little bit more the next day.
“Somebody said there that we haven’t been in a final in 83 years and now we have two in a week or so. So I think that is a great way of looking at it and a positive way of looking at it. We will go back and have a look at what we did right and what we did wrong,” said Glennon.
The sides were level six times, with Craughwell only hitting the front for the first time five minutes from time.
But with Niall Morrissey in superb form with frees, Sarsfields hit back and he landed his eighth to force a replay, which is likely to take place in two weeks.
Sarsfields, the first team to win successive All-Ireland titles in the early 1990s, enjoyed wind advantage in the opening half and led by 0-8 to 0-3 at the interval.
Craughwell, who had responded to an early Sarsfields’ surge with points from Ger O’Halloran, Alan Callanan and Niall Healy, did not score in the second quarter.
Morrissey kept pushing Sarsfields in front, with Joseph Cooney also a key figure as they opened up a five points interval lead. But Craughwell made a great start to the second half, with Callanan pointing inside 30 seconds of the restart and county player Healy also finding the range with another free.
Morrissey hit back for Sarsfields, but a couple of Healy efforts and points from impressive midfielder Ger O’Halloran and All-Ireland minor winner Thomas Monaghan saw Craughwell draw level at 0-9 each after 44 minutes.
Morrissey and Healy then exchanged points twice to tie the sides six minutes from the end, before Alan Callanan edged Craughwell ahead for the first time with an excellent point from the right wing.
But Morrissey had the final say a minute later, making no mistake into the teeth of the wind to restore parity
In the end both sides were just relieved to get another chance.