Andersonstown SC Antrim Intermediate Hurling Championship, Group One
Sarsfield's 2-15 Glenariffe 1-16
KEVIN McKernan found the net from a late penalty that ultimately saw Sarsfield's grab victory over Glenariffe at the Bear Pit on Saturday to seal top spot in Group One and eliminate Oisin's.
Going into the game, there were a number of permutations to see which two sides would fill the top spots to reach the last four, but the Paddies knew their fate lay firmly in their hands as a win would see them top.
It was looking a little precious late on as the visitors led by three, but McKernan's penalty goal would tip the scales their way as they advanced.
Seanie McIntosh and Donal McKernan traded early points but the visitors, who knew they needed something from this game, were making good headway with scores from a Caolan O’Connor 65 and Kieran McKendry.
Daniel Smyth and Niall McKenna drew the hosts back level and this pattern would continue in the early stages as O’Connor and McKendry again gave the Glensmen the lead, only for McKenna and Daniel McKernan levelling.
Sarsfield's got their noses in front for the first time through Kevin McKernan but Brogan O'Connor had the teams level once more.
After an exchange of points, Conor Patterson nudged Glenariffe back in front and then they fully grabbed there initiative when Conor Patterson raced clear before setting up Daniel Kearney for the game’s opening goal in the 25th minute.
However, Sarsfield's would hit back in king just three minutes later as county star Niall McKenna raced through to hit the Paddies' first major of the day and then sling over another equaliser, the sixth time the teams were level in the first half.
But it would be Glenariffe taking a 1-9 to 1-8 lead into the break as Caolan O’Connor landed a late free to set up what promised to be a tense second period.
Sarsfield's began well upon the resumption with Daniel McKernan hitting the equaliser and then McKenna edged them back in front, only for O'Connor to leave the sides locked for the eighth time.
McKenna appeared to suggest Sarsfield's were set to take over as he hit back-to-back points, but the nature of this game would not allow it to be so as O'Connor responded in kind to square things once more before Conor Patterson put Glenarife back in front with Brogan O'Connor and substitute, Aaron Cosgrove adding two more to establish a three-point gap with six to play.
But the teams continued to slug it out as Sarsfield's dug deep with a pair of frees from McKenna leaving the minimum in it and then came that big moment on 59 minutes as Garry Lennon was trailed down and despite finishing himself, play was pulled back for the penalty. The pressure was on, but Kevin McKernan kept his cool and buried it past Seanan McToal.
There was still time for Glenariffe to save themselves and Brogan O'Connor split the posts to leave just one in it, but with Creggan's 1-23 to 1-17 win over Glenravel seeing them finish the group on six points and Sarsfield's holding the better scoring difference, they needed a win to break into the top two at the finish.
That was not forthcoming as McKenna hit the insurance score for Sarsfield's to bring his tally to 1-10 for the day and see them finish top of the pile to set up a semi-final against Tír na nÓg.
SARSFIELD'S: Gerard McKernan; Niall McAlea, Jack Daniels, Mark McCavanagh; Michael Johnston, Caolan McKernan, Enda McCartan; Kevin McKernan, Daniel McKernan; James Cunningham, Niall McKenna, Daniel Smyth; Donal McKernan, Garry Lennon, Anthony McGarrigle.
GLENARIFFE: Seanan McToal; Michael Haughey, Niall Murray, Ronan Leech; D Haughey, Daniel Kearney, Cathan Graham; Kieran McKendry, Oliver Kearney; Seanie McIntosh, Caolan O’Connor, Brogan O’Connor; Daniel Kearney, Conor Patterson, Patrick McIlwaine.
Subs: Aaron Cosgrove, M McAllister
REFEREE: Lorenzo McMullan