O'Connors a twin terror as Sarsfields despatched


MUNSTER SHC FIRST ROUND Newtownshandrum 0-19 Thurles Sarsfields 1-15JERRY O’CONNOR underlined how much he still has to offer the Rebels with a 60th-minute winning point to steer Newtownshandrum to the Munster hurling semi-final after a classic encounter at Semple Stadium, Thurles yesterday.

But it was his brother, Ben, who was the real star turn for the Cork champions, hitting some magnificent points, eight in all, from placed-ball situations.

In the final analysis, it was his ability to punish Sarsfields indiscretions that tipped the balance in his side’s favour.

In what was a thriller from start to finish, with quality hurling and some great scores, Sarsfields will feel most unlucky to lose. A last-minute free from Pa Bourke from inside his own half tailed wide, and marked their exit.

Sarsfields set out their stall early. After only two minutes, Bourke controlled Michael Gleeson’s long delivery before turning and shooting to the net.

Experienced Newtownshandrum are chasing their third provincial title and four unanswered points in five minutes brought the Cork side level.

Sarsfields, with county minor Denis Maher outstanding, responded well to go six points clear, but once more the Cork champions rose to the challenge.

Cathal Naughton and the O’Connors led the charge as five points without reply in seven minutes had them only one behind at the break, 1-10 to 0-12.

That was the crucial period of the game and what really won it for Newtown. With the breeze to aid them in the second half, three points in seven minutes to Denis Maher’s effort for Sarsfields had the Cork side ahead for the first time.

But Sarsfields were in no mood to capitulate and in a pulsating last 20 minutes scores were traded in thrilling fashion. Denis Maher levelled for Sarsfields and Bourke put them ahead.

Ben O’Connor levelled at the three-quarter stage.

Again Maher put Sarsfields in front, but two Ben O’Connor frees edged Newtownshandrum ahead with three minutes to go.

Michael Gleeson squared the game for Sarsfields in the 58th minute, but in the 60th Jerry O’Connor showed great composure to punish hesitancy in the Thurles backline with what was to prove the winning point.

Bourke’s failed effort from a free inside his own half in the 58th minute deprived the Tipperary champions of a second chance.

The contribution of the O’Connor brothers to Cork and Newtownshandrum has been immense over the years, but never was it more crucial than in this encounter.

They were not on their own, however. Cathal Naughton hit some delightful points from midfield. Jerry O’Mahoney, Ryan Clifford, and Pat Mulcahy also kept them on track when the pressure was on.

Sarsfields were gutted at the defeat. Minor star Denis Maher was outstanding for them with six points from play. Pádraic Maher, Johnny Enright, Bourke, and Michael Cahill were others to have big games for them.

NEWTOWNSHANDRUM:W Biggane; J O’Mahoney, B Mulcahy, D Gleeson; S O’Riordan, P Mulcahy, P Noonan; PJ Copse (0-1), C Naughton (0-3), R Clifford (0-2), Jerry O’Connor (0-3), M Bowles (0-1); J Coughlan (0-1), John O’Connor, B O’Connor (0-8, four frees, sideline, 65). Subs:JP King for John O’Connor; J Herlihy for Bowles;

SARSFIELDS:P McCormack; M Cahill, P Maher, K O’Gorman; B O’Dwyer, L Cahill, S Lillis; A Kennedy, M Gleeson (0-1); L Corbett, D Maher (0-6), P Bourke (1-5, two frees, sideline); R Ruth, J Enright (0-1), S Ryan (0-2). Subs:D Kennedy for Ruth; G O’Grady for Ryan.

Referee:G Hoey (Clare)

Next Up . . .

In the provincial semi-finals – scheduled for Sunday, November 15th – Newtownshandrum will host Adare of Limerick, while Ballygunner will host the newly-crowned Clare hurling champions Cratloe.