The Barrs are back on top because Maguire grabbed hold of the game when it mattered

The Barrs are back on top because Maguire grabbed hold of the game when it mattered
Ian Maguire wins the ball from Duhallow's Aidan Walsh and Anthony O'Connor. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE BARRS now know what it’s like to win a senior county title again.

In those last few minutes of play, as the emotion of 33 years felt like it would burst open Páirc Uí Chaoimh with pure will to make this finally happen, it might even have seemed like it was worth the wait for the Barrs, an epic kind of ending to an epic kind of journey the club has been on to finally the champions of Cork football again.

It’d be harsh on an excellent Duhallow performance to suggest the club team wanted or needed this more over the hour, but Barrs certainly made it happen with the sort of work ethic and energy all over the field that suggested they weren’t going to be left wondering.

Eoghan Finn scores his goal past Duhallow's Patrick Doyle. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Eoghan Finn scores his goal past Duhallow's Patrick Doyle. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ian Maguire was as immense as ever and eventually, just about, wore down the Aidan Walsh challenge at midfield and managed to get on the ball more and control the flow of the ball in that last quarter. They scored 3-14 and always found someone willing and able to make that run to open up space or get on the end of a move when it was needed.

Steven Sherlock kicked 1-8 which is about his average (a pretty sensational average to be fair) and they found goals, really well-finished ones, from Colin Lyons and Eoghan Finn when others needed to step up. It was that heroes-everywhere sort of day; it has to be when you a game ebbs and flows through 33 scores.

The place was hardly packed but it did have the feel of a proper county final with enough quality individual performances and scores and excitement to engage. Sure, there was never a feeling that either defence had complete control of their zone — the first four goals all came basically from runners getting down the middle of the opposition defence — but they were still well-worked goals that needed to be created.

And it only added to the sense of openness, that you were never quite sure where the game was going.

Duhallow had a superb opening quarter from Kevin Crowley, Aidan Walsh clicking through the gears at times with set-ups for the two goals, one from a long kick-pass, the second from a well-timed athletic run, and several moments where he fetched a ball or took off on a run where he looked the standout footballer on the field. 

Donncha O’Connor kicked a couple of lovely points and maybe three kick-passed assists that nobody else on the field had the vision or skillset to perform.

They kicked the ball well into spaces, created great link-ups between their forwards to score 2-14 and I can’t remember many better losing county final performances in the last 20 years. And still, it wasn’t enough because of the sheer refusal of the Barrs to allow another county final slip out of their control.

At one point of the first half Ray Keane was shouting on the sideline for midfielder Eoin Comyns to run back and protect his goal from a threatening Duhallow break; the next minute he tore down the centre of the Duhallow defence to set up his No 15 for a goal chance — there was little doubt Steven Sherlock would bury it.

Steven Sherlock and Eoghan McGreevey celebrate after defeating Duhallow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Steven Sherlock and Eoghan McGreevey celebrate after defeating Duhallow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

And that set the tone for the energy levels and persistence and non-stop running of the winners here, where they always tried to keep the tempo and pace of the game as high and frenetic as possible – Duhallow tended to have more controlled possession when things went down a notch.

The second goal came from a lovely dinked kick-pass Michael Shields and a perfectly-timed direct run from Colin Lyons who took a ball at pace to break the line and smack the ball into the bottom corner. They didn’t have the long kick-passing game of Duhallow but they just never stopped supporting the man on the ball or making that extra run to try and punch the hole to make the score.

Conor Dennehy bombed forward at one stage of the first half right down the middle to punch a point. Eoghan Finn took advantage of a loose kick-out to work the third goal and found the legs to beat his man and punch a point at the end.

And they had Maguire of course, who’s probably done more than anyone in standard-setting and performing. He caught four kick-outs in the first quarter.

There’s never been a player he hasn’t wanted to run past or been able to run past with the ball and if he wasn’t allowed be as influential as he could close to goals, he was still able to constantly open up spaces in the middle third by beating a man and giving a handpass to the next runner.

At one stage near the end Barrs won a free down the wing and the ball was handed to Maguire. He kicked it on and won another free, again the ball was handed to Maguire. 

He backed himself to kick a crossfield ball into traffic late on that didn’t seem like the safest sort of pass to take on at that time; it came off and summed up the spirit of Maguire and the Barrs here.

They had that raw willingness to do whatever they had to here so as not to face another heartbreak. The roar at the whistle sounded like an awful lot of pain being belted into the winter air. The Barrs won as they had to.

County champs again. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
County champs again. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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