Congratulations to the Charlestown Sarsfields under-14 team who captured the division 9 shield final in great style at the recent Féile competition which so captured the hearts and minds of all Charlestown Sarsfields G.A.A. people and community at large recently.
The Sarsfields found themselves pitched in tough group as they were paired with Drumcliffe (Sligo), Faughanvale (Derry) and Scotland . They acquitted themselves very well losing narrowly to Drumcliffe in their opening game before defeating Scotland pretty decisively in game two which left them to face Faughanvale in their third and decisive game of the group. Both of the Sarsfields opening games were played at the splendid headquarters of the Drumcliffe G.A.A. Club in Sligo who ticked all the boxes when it came to hospitality as they left no stone unturned in terms of the welcome they extended with the level of refreshments on offer to all teams and supporters using their facilities second to none. The Sarsfields returned to their home ground Fr. O`Hara Park to face off against a strong and physical Faughanvale side who were unbeaten having won their two games in a canter. The Sarsfields never took a backward step and battled manfully against a physically imposing Derry side who proved too good for the brave green and white lads which saw the Faughanvale top the group and progress to the quarter-finals while the Sarsfields dropped down to the shield competition.
The Sarsfields defeated Irvingstown (Fermanagh) in their first game 2-8 to 1-4 in a game that was a lot closer than the scoreline might indicate and this saw them progress to the semi-finals and a clash with Kilmainhamwood (Meath). This game was played at the Tubbercurry G.A.A. grounds and there was plenty of Sarsfields support in attendance as they took to the field to take on their Meath opponents. The Sarsfields looked to be coasting to victory as they led 3-1 to no score after ten minutes with Conor McArdle and Michael Honeyman the goalscorers as they turned up the heat on their opposition with some fine flowing football. Kilmainhamwood hit back however and managed to hit 1-2 without reply to narrow the Sarsfields lead somewhat with the green and white 3-1 to 1-2 ahead at the interval.
The second half turned out to be a dramatic , frantic affair as Kilmainhamwood came at the Sarsfields hard. The sides were level at 3-4 apiece with three minutes left on the clock as the Sarsfields struggled to shake off a persistent and stubborn Meath challenge. Both sides threw everything at each other in the dying embers but up stepped young Paddy Joe Dunleavy to bang in a goal for the Sarsfields with the very last kick to send them into the final in what was a sensational finish by the young maestro. It was hard on Kilmainhamwood as they more than contributed to what was a gripping encounter but the green and white odyssey continued as they qualified for the final proper and a clash with Mayo rivals Ballintubber.
Kilcoyne Park, Tubbercurry again provided the venue with the Sarsfields spurred on by a huge support as they squared up against the lads from West Mayo. The Sarsfields went into the game as big underdogs as their opponents were competing two divisions higher in the county league but the Sarsfields had been defying the odds all weekend and they were not about to back down at this stage. The final was another dramatic affair with the Sarsfieds showing buckets of courage, spirit and ressolve as they hit Ballintubber with everything they had. The green and white raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead with Conor McArdle dominating the scoreboard with some flawless kicking. The Sarsfields were playing all the football and extended their lead to 0-6 to 0-2 with time almost up. Ballintubber got a goal right on the stroke of half-time to bring them right back into contention and leave the minimum between the sides with the green and white 0-6 to 1-2 in front which was hardly a fair reflection as they played most of the football in the first half.
The Sarsfields continued to dominate the exchanges in the second half but found scores hard to come by with a strong wind, missed chances and fatigue hampering their chances of victory. Ballintubber hit a second goal five minutes from time to leave the scores tied but McArdle hit a good free to edge the Sarsfields in front with just seconds remaining. Ballintubber forced one final attack which saw the Sarsfields concede a free right in front of their own posts and the Ballintubber kicker made no mistake to send the game into extra-time with bodies beginning to wilt on both sides.
There was still plenty of drama to come as the scores were tied with a Conor McArdle point cancelled out by a similar Ballintubber score as both sides strived for that elusive winner. The Sarsfields forced one final attack with the ball landing in the hands of full forward Michael Honeyman who hit a magnificent point with the outside of his left boot as it sailed high and handsome over the bar to ignite wild scenes of jubilation and excitement among the players, mentors and supporters alike as that was literally the last kick of an epic contest. Michael`s score was a thing of real beauty, fit to win any match and he was mobbed by a sea of green as players, parents and supporters went into ecstacy on the back of this superb triumph.
There were great scenes as Mick Rock from the Connacht Council presented the shield to victorious captain James Gallagher with lots of emotion in evidence as he hoisted it high into the clear Sligo air. There were great scenes back in town when the victorious team arrived back in cavalcade with the party and celebrations going on long into the night. Well done to the management team of Shane Moran, Michael Horkan, Phillip Craig, Ryan O`Connor and Emmet Gavaghan who worked wonders with the squad over the weekend and got the maximum out of what was a very determined, hardworking, exemplary bunch of players. The team were a credit to the club, themselves and their parents and did the business where it counted most on the field of play as they let their boots do the talking in some style.
It was a great weekend for the club and it was heartening to see such big numbers turn out to support a team that never stopped giving from first match to last. It was just the boost the club needed and the management would like to thank the supporters and sponsors who stepped up to sponsor the gear which the lads wore with such distinction and honour. The team and panel who represnted the club with such pride was as follows : Ryan Maye, Evan Gavaghan, Christian McEntire, Dylan McGuinness, Adam Shryane, Eoin Flannery, Tadhg Horkan, Mark Lowther, Conor McArdle, James Gallagher (capt) Denis Stephens, Oisin Maloney Paddy Joe Dunleavy, Michael Honeyman, Cillian Hanley, Kyle Moran, Lewis O`Connor, Shane O`Toole, Owen McQuillen, Odhran Horkan, Colm Gordon, Gavin Honeyman, Dean O`Toole , Shane Maye and Conor Drudy.