Keeper of the faith drove the Barrs on in the county final to uphold the Kerins tradition

Keeper of the faith drove the Barrs on in the county final to uphold the Kerins tradition

St Finbarr's goalkeeper John Kerins in action against Carbery Rangers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE outpouring of emotion after St Finbarr’s ended a 33-year wait for football glory was raw and compelling, the epitome of what county finals are all about.

John Kerins and Colm Scully after beating Duhallow. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
John Kerins and Colm Scully after beating Duhallow. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The Togher club endured some dark days in the modern era, the ignominy of relegation at the of 2007 and a series of losses at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the big stage. Yet when the heat came on against Duhallow they didn’t get swept away to the weight of history and instead created it.

For keeper John Kerins it was an especially poignant experience to get his hands on the Andy Scannell Cup. His father, the late, great Cork netminder, was there in 1985 and from the outside, it would appear John junior was always destined to follow in his footsteps.

John Kerins follows captain Larry Tompkins in the parade before beating Meath in 1990. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
John Kerins follows captain Larry Tompkins in the parade before beating Meath in 1990. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Yet the opportunity to play senior football for the Barrs only arose after an unfortunate leg break to the incumbent Declan Murphy against Douglas. Kerins was in at the deep end for to see out the quarter-final and then started against Carbery Rangers and in the final.

“Ray Keane and Deccie were on to me the last few weeks and told me they believed in me so there wasn’t that much pressure really. Everything was settled at training and that always helps.

“I’d say the semi-final and final weren’t a problem, I was far more nervous in those 10 minutes I came on against Douglas. When you’re the back-up you’re used to coming on for 10 minutes at the end of challenge games, not being thrown into the heat of championship. That was wild enough.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“It’s bittersweet knowing that Deccie getting injured was my stepping stone but that’s the way it goes with the position. Given my family connection is was obviously that bit extra special knowing you were upholding a Barrs tradition.”

A good goalie is worth their weight in gold but also hard to dislodge. The Blues have had some brilliant stoppers, from Kerins senior to John O’Brien and Kevin McTernan, who died after an illness 13 months ago.

“John O’Brien had to wait so long for my dad to step down and then Kevin was in the same position. Deccie was waiting for his chance too. You probably only hit your prime in your early 30s as a goalie so you have to remember that. It’s very different.”

Interestingly, Kerins wasn’t always drawn between the posts.

“I think if he was still around I wouldn’t be in goal. Up to U11/U12 I was a forward and he passed away when I was nine. I fell in because Cian Madden decided he wanted to go out the field, he got sick of it.”

Derek Coughlan with Cork City mascots John and Paul Kerins in 2001. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Derek Coughlan with Cork City mascots John and Paul Kerins in 2001. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

John’s mother Ann and siblings Paul and Suzanne rallied around each other after the passing of John in 2001, while the Barrs was an ever-present beacon.

“My mother was and is just sports mad. At the time she didn’t even drive but the likes of Paul Goggin, John O’Brien and Ivan O’Mahony, who were coaching us all the way up, were vital. They often picked us up for training. My father’s brother Humphrey was always around the club too.”

As a teenager though, his number one geansaí was taken by James McDonnell.

“James was a year younger than me but he was the Cork minor goalie so got in ahead of me, he jumped in at U16. We’re still working away together now and he was the sub keeper against Duhallow. We all just hop off each other and you have to get used to it. It can be a mental torture for a sub goalie. No doubt about that.”

St Finbarr's goalkeepers John Kerins, James McDonnell and injured Declan Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarr's goalkeepers John Kerins, James McDonnell and injured Declan Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It all came together last Sunday, where Kerins’ restarts to Ian Maguire and Eoin Comyns gave the new champions a supply of primary possession.

“The lads believe you play as it as you see and in fairness to Maguire and Comyns, they kept making runs for me. If they’re dominant you keep hitting them.

“I did try a pop pass to Denis O’Brien on the 45 and they turned it over and got a score off it. The Páirc is a big area so you’re inclined not to go short and you’re less exposed then if anything goes wrong.

“It happened their keeper twice at the end and he’d a great season. Those turnovers cost them.

“We’ve Eric Barrett and he’s a lot of experience as a goalkeeping coach because he was involved with Cork but he also played as a midfielder himself. He goes through their kick-outs, but only to a certain extent to try and exploit any weaknesses, and then to get it right at our end too.”

That they did, and with a core of young guns, the Barrs are very much back.

“Having minor and U21 success is huge for a club because it gives young players a taste of it and a bit of confidence too when they come up to senior. You get your two or three footballers coming in every year then and you’re on to something.”

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