Analysis: St Finbarr's came up with the big plays at key moments

Christy O'Connor breaks down the Munster final victory over Austin Stacks in Thurles
Analysis: St Finbarr's came up with the big plays at key moments

Austin Stacks’ Darragh O'Brien and Billy Hennessy of St Finbarr's in action last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

WITH less than a minute to play in additional time of Sunday’s Munster club final, the game had effectively come down to the Barrs’ final kick-out.

An Austin Stacks goal from Seán Quilter had just reduced the deficit to one point and a seemingly perilous position from just two minutes earlier had suddenly been transformed into a golden opportunity for the Kerry side.

Stacks had won the two previous Barrs kick-outs and translated that possession into 1-1. 

St Finbarr's Enda Dennehy scores his side’s second goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
St Finbarr's Enda Dennehy scores his side’s second goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Securing possession from the restart didn’t guarantee anything but Stacks had all the momentum and they’d have fancied their chances of engineering one final opportunity to take the match to extra-time. John Kerins went long and the Barrs had managed to create a 3-2 advantage under the dropping ball. 

After Ian Maguire won the break, he released the pass to Enda Dennehy. His pass to Michael Shields was loose and ahead of the Barrs man but the Stacks defence was scrambling and Colin Griffin conceded a free which Steven Sherlock converted.

And yet the game still wasn’t over. 

Stacks won the kick-out and came raiding but Dylan Casey’s attempt to Kieran Donaghy on the ball was overhit and Kerins palmed the ball away. It was a brilliant win but the manner of it was also a neat encapsulation of the Barrs season to date. 

Some of the football they played in the first half was top-drawer stuff, but the third quarter was another horror show and they were scrambling for their lives – again – in the dying moments. 

On the other hand, the Barrs still found a way to win a match that could have just as easily got away from them.

Luke Hannigan of St Finbarr's celebrates with his mother Anne. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Luke Hannigan of St Finbarr's celebrates with his mother Anne. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Austin Stacks had raised their quality and intensity in the third quarter, but the Barrs had almost gone away from everything they had done in the first half. 

After having a 73% conversion rate in the first 30 minutes the Barrs had a 0% conversion rate in the 15 minutes after the break when missing every one of their five chances.

After only turning the ball over 10 times in the opening half, the Barrs turned the ball over 10 times in the third quarter and coughed up 0-3 off that possession. It could have been even worse when another turnover led to a Michael O’Donnell dropping shot that almost ended up in the net in the 40th minute.

Stacks had pushed up on the Barrs kick-out but they still only won two of Kerins’ restarts in that period. Stacks mined two points off their own kick-out, but all of the Barrs' troubles were emanating from turnovers, five of which were sourced from loose passes, unforced errors and a shot dropped short.

A Brian Hayes point finally stemmed the bleeding, but it still took until the 59th minute for the Barrs to seem like they had finally taken control of the second half.

SUCKER PUNCH

A brilliant one-handed swat-block by Alan O’Connor off a Quilter pass saw the counter-attack move through 11 different pairs of hands before Shields secured possession just inside the 45 metre line. 

Shields took on his man and, while Stacks still had numbers back, Dennehy’s run from deep took him through a gap of two Stacks defenders and the timing of Shields’ pass was perfect.

Dennehy’s composure and execution were exemplary in the circumstances but the Barrs desperately needed that score because for most of the second half they like looked like one sucker-punch away from being knocked out. 

That blow almost came in the 51st minute when Kerins made a fine save from Quilter. 

A green flag at that stage would have put the Cork champions on the canvass and, in all likelihood, out for the count. Stacks though had never been able to get in front because the Barrs' early goal had given them a cushion, along with the confidence to drive on and dictate the terms of the match. 

It took over three minutes before a Stacks outfield player actually secured possession in the match.

Stacks were always chasing after the early goal from Cillian Myers-Murray, which was brilliantly finished, but the assist from Hayes showed how well set-up the Barrs were; moving Hayes inside was something Stacks probably never expected. 

Hayes had a massive game; from 16 plays, he ended with three points, which could have been five.

Myers-Murray had a fine first half when scoring 1-1 and having an assist but the tone was set in that period by the excellent Billy Hennessy; he was involved in four key turnovers, three of which led to Barrs points. One of Hayes’ first-half points originated from a blocked shot by Hennessy from Darragh O’Brien.

The Barrs also did well on kick-outs in that opening half, scoring four points off restarts, two of which were won by Maguire. The captain also won two kick-outs in the second half which led to the Barrs only two points in that half. 

Maguire had another fine game from 26 plays because he made big plays when the Barrs really needed them. Shields also showed his experience and know-how when being at the heart of the Barrs' two final scores.

Stacks had more shots (21-20) but the two Barrs goals were decisive.

ROCK-SOLID 

Donaghy was pivotal to the Stacks' late goal, but he was never the aerial threat the Kerry side needed him to be because of the excellence of Sam Ryan, who, despite conceding inches and physique, marked him brilliantly under the dropping ball.

Sam Ryan of St Finbarr's in action against Kieran Donaghy of Austin Stacks. A key battle at Semple Stadium. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sam Ryan of St Finbarr's in action against Kieran Donaghy of Austin Stacks. A key battle at Semple Stadium. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Of the eight long balls played into Donaghy, Stacks only won three. The fact that all three led to scoring chances, two of which were converted, underlined the importance of Ryan’s role.

Ryan just refused to yield. So did the Barrs. Just like the old days.

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