The picture that proves why nothing beats the club championship

The picture that proves why nothing beats the club championship

St Finbarr's captain Eoin Keane celebrates the win over Douglas recently. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT might have only been the third round, but beating Douglas was a serious win for St Finbarr's.

The emotion on their captain Colm Keane's face at full-time – captured brilliantly by Eddie O'Hare in the picture above – says as much. When the final whistle sounded it was 'Barrs' ball..' and then some. The local championship at its best. 

Now they're a win away from returning to the semi-finals for the first time in 11 seasons, but only if they can negotiate another city derby against a Blackrock unit that pushed Imokilly all the way in last year's decider.

Even if the Blues are a hurling stronghold they were rank outsiders with the bookies coming in against Douglas. They held off a second-half comeback to edge through to the quarter-final by a point at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was the highlight of the club season so far.

Douglas have yet to fulfil their potential, 2014's semi-final replay loss to the Glen the closest they've come to a breakthrough, but they have an underage production line and a host of Cork players, from the Cadogans to Shane Kingston, Stephen Moylan, Mark Collins, Brian Turnbull and more. Despite getting a return of 0-6 from play from Alan Cadogan, they fell behind early and could never peg the Blues back.

The Barrs aren't short of quality hurlers, of course. The Cahalanes, Billy Hennessy and Glenn O'Connor would be vital cogs for any club team. In attack Eoghan Finn and the ageless Rob O'Mahony shared 1-6 from play.

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

Ronan Curran is at the helm in Togher these days and the team were a reflection of the former All-Star centre-back: tough as nails but with a touch of class.

If their season comes to a close this Saturday against Blackrock in the Páirc, the significance of the defeat of Douglas will be lost of course. However it was refreshing to see players, mentors and supporters embracing the moment.

Often after a game, you need to put the head down, stick to the process and immediately look towards the next challenge. On other occasions, it's entirely appropriate to celebrate lustily. The Barrs deserved and need to do just that.

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

There's been a bit of talk since the Cork hurlers' All-Ireland semi-final exit at the hands of Limerick about how worthless their back-to-back Munster titles were. That's nonsense though. You have to savour hurling victories at the height of summer. What's the point in playing at all otherwise?

Cork could have lost, or not even reached, the provincial finals in 2017 and '18 and still failed to make it past the last four in the All-Ireland series. John Meyler's charges might not retain the Munster championship next season, but they shouldn't be afraid to enjoy it if they do, even if they need to get back to winning ways in Croke Park.

It would be a boost for Meyler and his selectors Donal O'Mahony and Kieran Murphy if a few hurlers stepped up to the mark as the club competitions reach their conclusion. With development squads and tiered county-wide underage grades these days, the most gifted young guns are always flagged up from an early age.

Yet the cut and thrust of adult championships often expose the weaknesses of a rising star. There was certainly no hiding place down in Castlemartyr last Saturday evening, with Ger Millerick and Deccie Dalton togging out (and they could have used togs given the driving rain) for Fr O'Neill's in a derby with Cloyne.

Fr O'Neills Declan Dalton shoots from Cloyne's Maurice Lynch and Brian Minihane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Fr O'Neills Declan Dalton shoots from Cloyne's Maurice Lynch and Brian Minihane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

O'Neill's have a promising team and were intermediate champions in 2016 to facilitate a return to the premier tier but they'd never beaten Cloyne in championship. That they managed to do just that, holding off a Paudie O'Sullivan inspired comeback after going seven points in front, was down in no small part to their Cork U21 duo.

Ger, one of four Millericks in the starting 15, was particularly influential in the first half at centre-back, while Dalton hit eight points. There was the usual quota of frees from the attacking behemoth but also two points from play and a massive sideline. 

Both players are worth a look for Cork next spring.

Carbery Rangers' John Hayes has his shot saved by Ballincollig goalkeeper Ciaran Noonan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Carbery Rangers' John Hayes has his shot saved by Ballincollig goalkeeper Ciaran Noonan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

On the football front, Clon and Carbery Rangers were hugely impressive at Bandon last Sunday in setting up a quarter-final derby. It will be a rematch of the first round encounter which Ross won and the 2016 champions will be expected to repeat the feat on the basis of their dazzling first half against Ballincollig.

Don't rule Clon out though, with Mark and Séan White, Tom Clancy, Timmy Anglin and Fionn Coughlan, as their rock-solid backbone.

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