Taking scores is elementary for Barrs talisman Sherlock

Taking scores is elementary for Barrs talisman Sherlock
Steven Sherlock buries a goal against Nemo last season. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THERE was a moment in the second half of St Finbarr’s semi-final game in the Páirc a few weeks ago where it became obvious how the game was going to play out.

Steven Sherlock had possession over to the right of the goal and though Carbery Rangers more or less knew he wanted to create space for a shot, they still couldn’t stop him as he weaved and jinked and moved the ball across the field and clipped a lovely score on the run.

The game was still there for the taking at that stage but it felt like a big play still, where one team and one player was stepping up and control was shifting in one direction only. It’s no surprise and it’s no coincidence that the boy keeps shooting the lights out more or less every time it’s needed because that’s basically what he’s always done.

Ask in the club and Diarmuid Hurley will say he remembers Sherlock from age eight or nine, that style and ability to score always a standout — one mentor at the time reckoned he was the most accurate kid he’d ever seen kick a football— and he’s followed through that natural ability with a willingness to commit to making the most of it.

At the 2007 Street Leagues at St Finbarrr's: Conor Cahalane, Luke O'Connell, Steven Sherlock and Colm McCarthy.
At the 2007 Street Leagues at St Finbarrr's: Conor Cahalane, Luke O'Connell, Steven Sherlock and Colm McCarthy.

Most people in the club would have taken note for the first time of a free-scoring young lad at the Féile 2011 competition held in Cork, where Sherlock led the Barrs U14s to the final with a trail of goals and points.

There’s a great photo actually from the semi-final of Sherlock scoring a goal, a keeper rushing out in a panic with his eyes closed, Sherlock seemingly in complete control as he dropped the ball onto his left foot, that same lovely style in evidence even then.

Most people in Cork got wind of the name in bits and pieces, Sherlock became one of those underage stars with an expectation and he’s just made every step up over and over again since.

A match-winning performance in winning a minor county final against Douglas was one standout and the process of becoming the guy for the Barrs at senior level came around sooner than ideal through sheer necessity really, where you’d sort of forget the player is so young because he seems to around forever already, performing these match-winning feats several times a year.

Steven Sherlock shoots and scores a goal in the Féile in 2011. Picture: Cillian Kelly
Steven Sherlock shoots and scores a goal in the Féile in 2011. Picture: Cillian Kelly

It hasn’t fallen off either, if anything the rush of scores has increased and it’s tough to separate the current success of this Barrs group and their runs to the closing stages of senior championships with his emergence — we’ve referenced previously here how vital the existence of one marquee forward is for any club looking to at least reach final four and then win county titles eventually.

In the last year or so alone he’s taken a lot of big teams for a lot of scores. A tally like a 0-6 in a tight win over Ballincollig by three points, a 0-9 in a nine-point win over Ross and then putting together a 0-8 and a 2-7 on the biggest days of the finals last year and still end up not being the hero.

These aren’t filler scores either, padding out with handy frees or at the end of barely-competitive games.

In the drawn final against Nemo last year Barrs were three points down in the last 10 minutes before Sherlock made the game his with the last three scores.

One, a genuinely missable free slightly to the right of goal around the 45 that he dropped over the bar very handily.

Two, a runner popped a handpass to Sherlock and he turned and curled over a point without thinking.

Three, again a Barrs runner carried ball deep into the Nemo defence and Sherlock made a little run out towards the ball-carrier before spinning and completely losing the defender with the simplest yet cleverest of movements to slip an equalising point.

None of them were exceptionally tough scores in the normal scheme of things but they showcased exactly what Sherlock brings — the skillset to find space to get on ball and snap points over, the ability to do this relentlessly under any circumstances.

There’s a balance here.

It doesn’t follow to make a song and dance about Sherlock scoring a point as that’s what he’s done at every age forever and the pressure of repeating it in a county final doesn’t necessarily compute either as he’s had that kind of situation right through the ages.

Yet, he’s only just out of U21 grade.

The manager Ray Keane spoke post semi-final about conversations they’d have about his conversion rate (Sherlock’s argument was if he doesn’t shoot he can’t score) and trying to become more efficient in shot selection.

Steven Sherlock, Charlie Sherlock and Ian Maguire. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Steven Sherlock, Charlie Sherlock and Ian Maguire. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Ian Maguire (a real leader for all the young lads in the Barrs by the way) referenced the pressure that the young forward has accepted as the main scorer in a team that’s looking to win games and titles — as Maguire bluntly put it, if he doesn’t score they’re under pressure — and there is an assumption for Sherlock to be averaging the eight or nine points a game if his team are to win.

The numbers grow if anything as the needs gets greater. This year we’ve had a 0-10 against Carrigaline, a 1-4 v Mallow and 1-5 v Douglas before that explosion of 10 points again against Carbery Rangers.

The performance in the semi-final was remarkable for its rate of course, but also for its complete brutal commitment to take on the responsibility of making the game his, to stepping up until the job was done.

At one stage of the first half Barrs worked the ball into the scoring area for Sherlock with his back to goal and everyone knew a shot was coming, but the defenders couldn’t stop it.

The shot drifted wide and when another pretty tricky free sailed off the wrong side of the post a little later, they felt honestly like the kind of misses that puncture the belief and conviction of a player and a team in general.

He went on to take control of the game in that matter-of-fact way, nailing a bunch of points from frees and play (none of them gimmes).

The same as he’s always done.

Steven Sherlock takes on Luke Boyle, Carrigaline. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Steven Sherlock takes on Luke Boyle, Carrigaline. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

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