Champions Imokilly march back to the decider after outgunning St Finbarr's

Champions Imokilly march back to the decider after outgunning St Finbarr's
Imokilly's Declan Dalton celebrates his goal against St Finbarr's. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Imokilly 3-19 St Finbarr’s 1-19

IMOKILLY remain on course for a third county SHC after victory over St Finbarr’s in yesterday’s semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.

So laden with quality and experience are the East Cork divisional side that their excellence over the past number of years has almost been taken for granted during an unbeaten run that stretches back to a quarter-final loss to Erin’s Own in 2016. It was a similar case here as St Finbarr’s, playing in their first semi-final in a decade, put in an honest and hardworking performance only to find that Imokilly were able to come up with something more.

The Barrs began well and even though Paudie O’Sullivan got in for a fifth-minute Imokilly goal, the city side – the last club to win three in a row, 1980-82 – weren’t cowed and led at the end of the first quarter. However, Imokilly’s class showed in a 12-minute period in which they outscored the Barrs by 1-6 to 0-0, a surge capped by a wonderful goal from Declan Dalton, who finished with 1-9.

By half-time, the scoreboard read 2-10 to 0-10 in Imokilly’s favour and they did enough to keep their opponents at arm’s length in the third quarter before the outcome was made safe by sub Shane O’Regan Óg, who netted a blistering effort on 46, just after his introduction. That made it 3-16 to 0-16 and the only time the lead was less than eight points after that was when Billy Hennessy, one of the best performers for the Barrs, struck a goal for them at the death.

The upshot is that Imokilly are one game away from what would be a massive feat, as well as confirming final opponents Glen Rovers as Cork’s Munster senior club championship representatives. They will go into the decider against the last club to win the title as favourites and it’s a status which has not been a difficult one for them to carry.

Conor Cahalane had the Barrs ahead inside 17 seconds with the first of his 13 points, immediately followed by a Colm Keane score and though Declan Dalton got Imokilly off the mark with a sideline cut, Damien Cahalane’s long-range effort made it 0-3 to 0-1.

When Séamus Harnedy set up O’Sullivan for the first Imokilly goal, it might have been expected that that would smother the Barrs’ challenge but instead they continued to show guile and Jonathan Power made it 0-7 to 1-3 on 15 minutes, though the Togher outfit had wasted other scoring chances and had needed a good Shane Hurley save to deny Dalton following a scramble.

Slowly, Imokilly got on top and Anthony Spillane, Dalton and William Leahy had points to put them 1-8 to 0-7 in front before Dalton’s brilliant goal on 26, doubling home from Harnedy’s ball in from the left.

After Dalton’s fifth point, Conor Cahalane ended the Barrs’ drought and then they were unlucky as his brother Damien went for a goal from a free but Dara O’Callaghan did well to save and Scott Callanan’s follow-up effort was kept out too.

A six-point interval lead for Imokilly became seven as Bill Cooper got on the scoresheet but Keane and Conor Cahalane replied for the Barrs and the third quarter became a shootout between him and Dalton, the margin siding between five and seven points.

Imokilly always have the ability to cut to the quick though and they did just that on 46 as Shane Hegarty set up Shane O’Regan and he blasted to the net to make it 3-15 to 0-15. While the Barrs sought an immediate response as Hennessy looked to find Jamie Lenihan, O’Callaghan read the danger.

Conor Cahalane was unlucky with another Barrs goal attempt and O’Callaghan also kept out another effort from a free by Damien Cahalane, the ball deflected over for a point, but the closing stages had an air of inevitability about them.

The Barrs finished with 14 as corner-back Olan Murphy was sent off in the final minute for a mistimed high challenge, but there was time for Hennessy to grab a late goal. Imokilly couldn’t be shaken, though.

Imokilly's Seamus Harnedy is tackled by St Finbarr's Jamie Burns. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Imokilly's Seamus Harnedy is tackled by St Finbarr's Jamie Burns. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Scorers for Imokilly: D Dalton 1-9 (0-6 f, 0-1 sideline), B Lawton 0-4, S Harnedy 0-3, P O’Sullivan, S O’Regan Óg 1-0 each, W Leahy, A Spillane, B Cooper 0-1 each.

St Finbarr’s: C Cahalane 0-13 (0-9 f, 0-1 65), B Hennessy 1-1, D Cahalane 0-2 (0-1 f), C Keane 0-2, J Power 0-1.

IMOKILLY: D O’Callaghan (Watergrasshill); K Histon (Cobh), C Barry (Castlelylons), G Millerick (Fr O’Neills); S Hegarty (Dungourney), M Russell (Aghada), J Cronin (Lisgoold); B Cooper (Youghal), M O’Keeffe (Fr O’Neills); B Lawton (Castlemartyr), S Harnedy (St Ita’s), A Spillane (Castlelyons); P O’Sullivan (Cloyne), D Dalton (Fr O’Neills), W Leahy (Aghada).

Subs: S O’Regan Óg (Watergrasshill) for O’Keeffe (44), J Stack (Castlemartyr) for Harnedy (60).

ST FINBARR’S: S Hurley; O Murphy, J Burns, J Goggin; D Cahalane, E Keane, B Hennessy; C Walsh, C Buckley; C Keane, J Power, S Callanan; C Barrett, B O’Connell, C Cahalane.

Subs: P Kennedy for Goggin (21, injured), B Hayes for O’Connell (half-time), J Lenihan for Callanan (38), D Scannell for Power (48).

Referee: Joe Larkin.

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