Sars’ curtain-raiser

by Karl Graham
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LUCAN Sarsfields will kick off their 2017 AFL division 1 season against Cuala this weekend hoping to build on last season and consolidate on a mid-table finish, according to mentor Greg O’Neill.
He will work with Gordon Ward who takes on the managerial reins from recently named hall of famer Sean McCaffrey who stepped aside after spending over 33 years managing sides at the 12th Lock club.
Ward brings extensive coaching experience to the club having previously managed at DIT, St Peregrine’s and Wolfe Tones, while also boasting a degree in strength and conditioning.
The team narrowly avoided relegation last season by finishing one place above the playoff spots but did enjoy a run to the quarter-finals of the senior championship where they lost out to eventual winners St Vincent’s.
With that being the third year in a row that they have lost at the quarter-final stage to the eventual winners of the competition, O’Neill is hoping this year will finally be the year they go at least one step further. On top of that, securing a place higher up the league table is also a priority.
“Last season was probably about staying in division one and getting as far as we could in the championship. This season we will be trying to consolidate our position, maybe in mid-table, and try to get to the semi-finals of the championship.
“We’ve been beaten in the quarter-finals the last three years in a row, and we’ve been beaten by the county winners each of those years,” said O’Neill.
Sarsfields have played two games in the St Vincent de Paul cup during the off-season; losing to St Jude’s 0-10 to 2-12 before landing a comprehensive 5-8 to 1-6 win away to St Oliver Plunkett’s last weekend.
The side haven’t added many to the ranks so the panel will remain largely the same from last year.
“We’ve added Coaimhin O’Conghaile, who is Emmet’s younger brother, and there may be one or two others.”
All in all, O’Neill believes that the team are looking good and all set for another competitive season at the top.
“It is going well. Training is going well and they seem to have warmed to the new manager so hopefully they can continue on now. We have one or two niggly injuries but they should be ok.”
Sarsfields won their first league fixture against Cuala last year before losing five of their next six so O’Neill knows that a good start is important.
“It is absolutely vital. We had 13 points last year and we were still waiting on results going our away to avoid being pulled into a relegation playoff, so the earlier you get the points the better.”

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