Blend of youth and experience proved key for champs St Finbarr's

Blend of youth and experience proved key for champs St Finbarr's
Glen O'Connor takes the ball out past Carbery Rangers' John O'Rourke. Picture: Gavin Browne

ST FINBARR'S management had no hesitation in looking to youth to help bale them out of a tricky situation against Carbery Rangers last weekend.

Manager Paul O'Keeffe, along with fellow selectors Jim O'Donoghue, Eric Barrett and Ian Keeler, plucked a couple of minors, Brian Hayes and Jamie Linehan, to rescue their season.

And while their county senior football championship title wobbled a bit, the Togher club remain in contention for a crack at a retaining the Andy Scannell Cup.

The 'Barr's are down to the last eight following their 2-17 to 1-17 extra-time success and also qualified for the new-look Premier Senior in 2020.

Hayes, son of former Cork midfielder, Paddy, was introduced three minutes from the end of regulation time with Ross a point in front, 1-12 to 1-11.

Nor for the first time or the last either, Steven Sherlock's prolific accuracy tied matters up for only the third occasion with an outrageous free from the left touchline. The clock read 59 minutes.

And when another substitute, Robert O'Mahony, who is at the other end of his glorious career, nudged the 'Barr's ahead it seemed the champions had survived.

That was until Ross's John Hayes converted a free, two minutes into injury-time, to force the game into extra-time at 1-13 apiece.

Brian Hayes found himself in the company of Cork skipper Ian Maguire and Ross pair James Fitzpatrick, a wily campaigner, and Brian Hodnett.

And he more than acquitted himself well, breaking ball at critical times and earning O'Keeffe's praise afterwards.

“I thought Brian was exceptional and really stood up, especially at a difficult time in the game,” he said.

The loss of Eoin Comyns with a hamstring injury hampered the 'Barr's midfield options, but he is expected back for the quarter-final, which won't be played for another month at least.

Young Linehan joined the fray a minute from the end of the first period of extra-time with the sides deadlocked at 1-15.

Again, it was a very hard game for anyone making their senior championship debut, but particularly a minor and Linehan will benefit from the experience big time.

The 'Barr's are still missing long-term injury victims in corner-back Sam Ryan, such a reliable figure in the county winning side, and Cillian Myers-Murray, who suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury last season.

On top of those, Enda Dennehy, wing-forward in 2018, recently left to go teaching in Abu Dhabi.

“He is another huge loss and we need to have that depth of player just as much as we needed our big players to stand up on Sunday.

“The injuries are slow and long-term, but we've another month, so we'll see,” O'Keeffe commented.

On the plus side, Cork defender Conor Dennehy, who missed the Rochestown Park Hotel Division 1 league final win over Cill na Martra, returned to the full-back line, where his tenacious tackling and sensible ball distribution stood out.

Another defender, Dylan Quinn, who played in the first-round win over Clyda Rovers, was also among the substitutes, offering another option at the back.

The huge sigh of relief at the final whistle could have been heard out Togher direction, but the game will bring them on a ton.

Now it's a waiting game to determine who their quarter-final opponents will be and as champions, the 'Barr's, will be top seeds.

Meanwhile, Urhan coach, Ciaran O'Sullivan, reflected on his side's 2-10 to 1-9 win over Garnish in the Beara final.

“We're thrilled to have won. As everyone knows Garnish had won the last three titles so to we needed to put a stop to that. We had to win, simple as that,” he said.

The former Cork player wasn't despondent at his side's eight first-half wides as Urhan turned around a point in front.

“That was down to the options being taken by the player on the ball. They shouldn't have been trying for scores from those situations."


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