“These are the days you’ll remember forever as a young player.”
That was one tweet that found itself onto the Charlestown Sarsfields Twitter page following the under 16 Division 2 League Final on Tuesday evening last. A sign of the times I suppose!
Claremorris was the venue, as our under 16 men faced off against The Neale GAA club in a final that was always going to be hotly contested. And not just because of the weather!
From the throw in, it was clear that management had hit the right chords with the Sarsfields lads in the dressing room, as they were without doubt the faster of the two sides to come out of the blocks. They had amassed a 1-03 to 0-01 lead after a mere 10 minutes, the goal coming from the left boot of Ben Crean, his first of many telling contributions over the course of the game.
Our defence was also proving watertight as the half progressed, with the likes of Brendan McCormack, Darragh Casey and Luke O’Donohue in no mood for coming out second best in any challenge.
Like most teams do, The Neale started to enjoy a period of dominance half way through the first period, but our lads were able to soak up the pressure and were proving devastating on the counter attack with Ciaran Honeyman starting to pull the strings at number 11, and our 2 man full forward line of Martin McCormack and Ruairi Cullen proving too hot too handle for The Neales full back line. The role of Jack Brennan was also paying dividends, as he always seemed to find himself in the right position, sniffing out danger one end, and breaking lines the other. A real masterclass of a performance from the young man.
At the interval our lads had a 4 point cushion, leading 1-06 to 0-05, but the job was far from done. Our wonderful supporters applauded them off the field, and we were 30 minutes away from our first piece of silverware of 2017.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with our lads first to every ball, David Doherty, Eoin Goldrick, Ben Conway and Martie Beirne leading by example in the middle third. This allowed one of our tallismen Jack Mahon really flourish, as he started to stamp his authority on the game. He linked defence and attack with ease, and the opposition struggled to find answers. The scoreboard was kept ticking over with the likes of the prementioned Ben Crean, Jack Mahon and Niall Drudy all chipping in with points, before Ruairi Cullen punched a whole in the net with a rasper off the left, and with 15 minutes to go the Sarsfields lads had secured an 8 point lead.
Momentum however did swing back to the North Mayo team entering the final quarter, as full back Darragh Casey was issued a black card, and considering he was keeping tabs on one of The Neales most dangerous forwards, this game was far from over. Michael Durcan entered the fray as captain Ben Conway filled in at full back. Our lads regrouped, and weathered the storm with great composure and determination. “We shall not be beat” was definitely the frame of mind these lads were in.
It was also at this stage of the game that goalkeeper Niall Fleming again proved his worth, with kickouts that always found his intended target, and hands like glue every time he was needed. His coolness most definitely translated its way through the rest of the team, and in turn the great Sarsfields supporters raised their voices one last time and helped push the lads over the line. Eoin Goldrick, who had given everything to the cause was substituted with a few minutes to go, and the ever ready Cahir Vesey came in and did his job with great applaud.
As the final whistle blew, we had done it, and the celebrations began! It really was a fantastic effort by the entire squad, as they showed a great togetherness to overcome what was a much fancied Neale team.
“A” Championship is the reward, and we look forward to an exciting summer following this great group of lads.