St Finbarr’s 0-14
Nemo Rangers 0-14
ST FINBARR’S salvaged a deserved draw in an exciting county senior football championship final in front of a crowd of just under 10,000 at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday.
Nemo Rangers, who led by eight points in the first-half, enjoyed a seven-point advantage after 33 minutes following Ciaran Dalton’s score, which ensured all six forwards found the range.
But, with most observers expecting the roll-of-honour leaders to stroll to a 20th title and their first since 2015, the game twisted as the ‘Barr’s took over.
Captain Ian Maguire and right half-back Colin Lyons worked themselves to a standstill as the Togher club showed courage and composure in abundance to creep back into the contest.
The revival began in mundane fashion as sharp-shooter Stephen Sherlock’s nonchalant approach to a routine close-in-free almost caused embarrassment, the ball clipping the crossbar en route.
It halved the deficit to six points, 0-12 to 0-6, after 36 minutes, but what transpired in the next quarter-of-an-hour completely transformed the game.
The ’Barr’s gained a firm grip right across the middle of the pitch with Maguire and Lyons leading the charge and the others took their cue to heap the pressure on Nemo.
Lyons’ surges from deep were causing major problems for the 2015 champions and he hit a couple of beauties, almost claiming a third, too, to make it a four-point game after 41 minutes.
Two more scores, from a Sherlock free and Denis O’Brien from play, cut the lead to 0-12 to 0-10 as the ’Barr’s supporters roared their approval, pinching themselves to believe they were in with a shout of ending their 32-year wait for a county.
Their Nemo equivalent breathed a sigh of relief with Alan O’Donovan’s big score, nine minutes from the end, their first in 18 minutes, as the gap stretched to three.
Back came the ’Barr’s, though, as Sherlock pointed a free almost immediately and then cancelled out Colin O’Brien’s second score for Nemo, 0-14 to 0-12, with four minutes’ regulation time remaining.
Then, came the game’s defining moment as young ’Barr’s defender, San Ryan, brilliantly timed his block on Dalton, who had goal on his mind.
The ’Barr’s swept down field again for Sherlock to kick his first point from play and reduce the margin to the minimum after 57 minutes.
Paul Kerrigan missed the target in Nemo’s next attack before Sherlock raised the loudest cheer of a gloomy afternoon by levelling matters as the game ticked into three minutes’ injury-time.
It was cat and mouse in the closing two as the ‘Barr’s tried everything to get a finisher into position to have a pop for the winner only for Nemo to deny them that opportunity.
Such a climax looked remote in the extreme as Nemo bossed the first-half, using all their skill, guile and experience to leave their opponents chasing shadows.
The Trabeg club bagged eight points in-a-row during an 18-minute spell in which the ‘Barr’s either dropped shots short into the grateful arms of keeper Micheal Aodh Martin or registered a string of wides.
As has been the way all season, Luke Connolly was at the centre of all that was good about Nemo’s play, usually with unerring accuracy and the occasional sumptuous ball into space for willing colleagues.
Connolly kicked three points in the opening nine minutes, including a 47m free and when Jack Horgan added another in the next onslaught, Nemo had surged 0-6 to 0-0 in front.
Connolly and Barry O’Driscoll nudged them eight clear after 18 minutes before Sherlock opened his side’s account. It was 0-10 to 0-4 at the break.
Scorers for St Finbarr’s: S Sherlock 0-8, 6f, C Lyons and D O’Brien 0-2 each, C Myers-Murray and I Maguire 0-1 each
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: L Connolly 0-4, 2f, B O’Driscoll, C O’Brien and P Gumley 0-2 each, J Horgan, P Kerrigan, C Dalton and A O’Donovan 0-1 each
St Finbarr’s: D Murphy; D Quinn, G O’Connor, A McCarthy; J Burns, S Ryan, C Lyons,I Maguire, captain, E Comyns; D O’Brien, M Shields, E Dennehy; C Myers-Murray, R O’Mahony, S Sherlock.
Subs: R Leahy for O’Mahony injured 47, A O’Connor for Lyons 59
NEMO RANGERS: MA Martin; C McWhinney, A O’Reilly, captain, A Cronin; T O Se, S Cronin, K Fulignati; A O’Donovan, J Horgan; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; L Connolly, P Gumley, C Dalton.
Subs: J O’Donovan for Fulignati and M Dorgan for Horgan 52, C Keane for O’Brien 52, C Horgan for O’Driscoll 58
Referee: C Lane (Banteer)