Sarsfields have edge in close derby

Sarsfields on the attack
Sarsfields on the attack

The slippery conditions following the constant rain at Raparee Park last Sunday scuppered the prospects of a classic local derby between Wolfe Tones and Sarsfields which drew a sizeable crowd who witnessed a more ring crafty High Moss side squeeze over he line by a two points margin.

The superbly groomed surface at Derrymacash, which is one of the County’s best, begged for a fast open contest and although both sides looked a little cagey in the opening period, with the shackles off, the closing stages were tense and unpredictable.

The visitors continued an unbeaten run which has lasted all of nine games, and although they were pinned to their collars by a Tones side who bossed the early exchanges, the loss of midfielder James Lavery in the opening period and Finnian Moriarty in the later stages both through injury, proved to be crucial. While both sides were guilty of wasting clear cut chances, the Tones in the opening period with a 60/40 ratio of possession rued several misses and although their attack despite a number of half chances never troubled Darren McAvoy in the winners goal.

This derby despite being physical never threatened to boil over, although a couple of stand up confrontations petered out as quickly as they started, the implementation of the advantage rule by referee Kevin McNeice kept the game flowing on a night the players managed the slippery surface with various degrees of success.

The hosts, who led on a scoreline of 0-05 to 0-03 at the break, found themselves four behind seven minutes after the re start, considering the tense nature of the game, a goal was always going to provide the catalyst for the success of either side.

Eight minutes after the break Paul McGeown pounced for the only goal of the game ,the former Armagh Minor player took a flick from Thomas McAlinden who had been found by a long delivery from the Hoops best player on the day Eamon McGeown who had an outstanding outing.

With the Trasna men being able to produce a strong bench which brought forth the experienced Paul Magee, Chris McGaughey and Kevin O’Hagan it was a credit to the Cash sides resolve that they battled to the end without the services of three of their best players which included Declan Lavery who was replaced in the final quarter.

Wolfe Tones lined out a fairly experienced side against their Country neighbours, although it was a surprise to see their pacey wing back Ryan McQuillan start in the inside forward line, the rotation of James Lavery and his midfield colleague Johnny McCarron between a central and defensive role appeared to be successful until Lavery retired injured before the break having shipped a strong earlier hit. Niall Geoghan and the effective James Doyle were the pick of the Cash attack, Conal O’Hagan had a good derby outing, James Martin is a classy full back, but Ruairi McCaughley had his hands full against the effective Michael Stevenson.

With Mark Reynolds entering the twilight of his career the High Moss player has lost none of his guile, the utility player against the Tones turned defence into attack in a flash on Sunday night, and formed a solid conduit in front of his full back line of Brian and Cieran Kerr and Minor player James McAlinden.

In the opening period the visitors were more direct than the home “Mr Consistency” Brian Lavery battled his side back into contention and Paul McGaughey’s superb ball carrying abilities were again in evidence throughout.

Scores were at a premium in the opening period, James Lavery for the Tones had a point cancelled out by a Thomas McAlinden volley which screamed over before Doyle, Geoghan and Lavery cushioned the Cash men to the half time break which urged responses from Mickey Stevenson and Paul McGaughey for the Hoops.

With injuries beginning to take their toll on the Tones and Paul McGeown’s strike on 38 minutes setting the standard for the second period, the Cash side trailing by four produced the games best passage of play to almost haul back the winners before the end.

Two points from Declan Lavery and a James Doyle strike sent a ripple of excitement through the crowd, but Sarsfields showed a little more composure to scrap a narrow win.

It was a committed performance from both sides considering neither are in the running for silverware or relegation.

While the derby tie failed to live up to its high billing, the superb playing surface of the Derrymacash ground and the hospitality of the hosts were the big winners on the night.