While Sarsfields’ firepower and ability to win shootouts is not in doubt, manager John Crowley took satisfaction from how his team overcame Blackrock on Sunday.
A Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC semi-final against Imokilly looms for the Riverstown side after a 1-15 to 0-15 victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was not a classic, but it was a game that Crowley felt Sars might not always have won.
“It is winning ugly,” he said, “and I suppose if you look at Sars over the last six or seven years, did Sars win ugly games?
“I thought we showed a lot of character, and I am hoping by the fact that we won a game that was in the melting pot right to the end, I feel that will stand to us.
“Whatever way the system is and whatever way the draw falls, you have to play your cards. We have developed a system of stages. Stage 1 was the group; our priority in stage one was to get out of the group and we did that thankfully. Sunday was stage two, the quarter-final of a county, we had to win it to progress to the semi-final.
“Stage three is that semi-final, and we’ll do the same work we have done all year long to prepare for that.”
Since the introduction of the group stage format, Sars lost a quarter-final to Erin’s Own in 2020 and then took the automatic semi-final spot in 2021 only lose to Glen Rovers. Last year brought an exit before the knockout stage.
Crowley preferred to focus on what lay ahead rather than dwelling on the past inability to win knockout games.
“It wasn’t mentioned,” he said, “we try and keep things as positive as we can.
“In our heads, we were very much aware of that. But in the players’ minds, we just focus on our system, our own play, even though today we didn’t play the way we wanted to play. The fact that we have won a battle is hugely encouraging. Hugely encouraging.”
Once again, subs played a part as Luke Hackett scored a point off the bench while Shane O’Regan was unlucky with a goal effort and Conor O’Sullivan brought assurance to defence.
“That’s what it is about,” Crowley said.
“Liam Healy is another guy coming into that equation, Willie Kearney too, Ben Nodwell. We have a lot talent on the line and it is up to us to utilise it as best we can.
“Definitely, it’s great when you can turn around and you can see these guys behind you. You know that if you are bringing them on, they are going to give you an extra 20 percent to what we are already doing.”
If they are to reach a first final since 2015, they will need to limit a strong Imokilly attack. A clean sheet was encouraging from that point of view, with Crowley praising coach Diarmuid O’Sullivan.
“I’d have to give an awful lot of that credit to Sully,” he said.
“He has worked very hard on our defensive formation, our defensive system. You can see the benefit of that. I thought we were very strong.”