Sharpshooters: Luke Connolly and Steven Sherlock vie for topscorer prize

Nemo ace can overtake Barrs star in the county final
Sharpshooters: Luke Connolly and Steven Sherlock vie for topscorer prize

Luke Connolly, Nemo Rangers, blasts home his penalty against Ballincollig. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

WHEN the Bon Secours county premier senior football championship final is eventually played it’s likely to be influenced hugely by two Cork stars: Luke Connolly from Nemo Rangers and Castlehaven penalty king Mark Collins.

And while the eagle-eyed duo are their respective clubs’ leading scorers in the competition’s new format, both are looking at number one in the scoring charts.

Despite being edged out in that dramatic sudden-death penalty shoot-out in the semi-final by the Haven, Steven Sherlock from St Finbarr’s has compiled the highest tally to-date. 

The proven marksman averaging 0-9 from his five outings in the championship, finishing with a very creditable 3-36, which included 1-11 against Carrigaline, 1-9 against the Haven and 1-7 against Clonakilty.

 Steven Sherlock, St Finbarr's, takes on Liam Jennings, Ballincollig. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Steven Sherlock, St Finbarr's, takes on Liam Jennings, Ballincollig. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

In his impressive returns, Sherlock kicked 17 frees, three ’45s and one ‘mark’ to race eight points clear of Connolly, who is his closest challenger in second place with Collins in sixth spot from a game less played.

The new format of four groups of four with the top two teams in each emerging to contest the knock-out phase was similar to that implemented way back in 1978.

At the time city football ruled, as reflected in the final pairing of Nemo Rangers and St Michael’s with the then Capwell club emerging triumphant on a 1-9 to 1-3 scoreline.

The Andy Scannell Cup remained in the city in ’79, on this occasion finding a resting place with the ’Barr’s in Togher after their 3-14 to 2-7 victory over newcomers Castlehaven in the final. Now, Nemo and the Haven are back in the decider again with few surprises in that.

Castlehaven's Mark Collins celebrates the win over the Barrs. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Castlehaven's Mark Collins celebrates the win over the Barrs. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Connolly made an immediate impression on the format by scoring 2-3 in Nemo’s opening 3-8 to 1-9 victory over Valley Rovers, who had shown enough in that game to force their way past Douglas and Bishopstown to qualify along with Nemo from Group 3.

Connolly added to his account by scoring 0-8 against the Town and 0-6 against Douglas as manager Paul O’Donovan guided the champions to the quarter-finals with minimum fuss.

Over the years Connolly has developed a habit of scoring goals, some of the spectacular variety, against Ballincollig, who suffered once again in the quarter-finals with Nemo advancing by 5-7 to 0-14.

They must surely have cursed Connolly’s name as he helped himself to a hat-trick of goals in a 3-3 haul, including one from a penalty.

In a much tighter semi-final, it was Nemo’s turn to score 0-14, but Duhallow’s 2-7 kept the tie in doubt right to the final whistle with Connolly contributing 0-2, one ‘mark’ and a free.

While Nemo breezed through their section, the Haven found themselves in the so-called ‘group of death’ alongside west Cork rivals Carbery Rangers, Newcestown and Ilen Rovers.

They opened with a 0-14 to 0-9 win over Ross, when Collins kicked a couple of frees before landing six points in the 1-12 to 0-9 victory against Newcestown.

Ilen were the whipping boys in the group and the Haven exposed the wide gulf in class by romping to a 4-19 to 2-4 win with Collins leading the way with 2-3.

The margin of victory allowed the Haven swoop above Nemo and the ’Barr’s to claim the lone semi-final berth and avoid the quarters.

And what a game that turned out to be against the ’Barr’s, the 2018 champions, with history in the making after the sides still couldn’t be separated after finishing 1-13 apiece after extra-time.

Collins added to his tally with four pointed frees, but it was his role as captain leading by example which grabbed the headlines as he converted not one, but two penalties before the west Cork side advanced by winning the shoot-out 4-3.

Of course, Connolly and Collins aren’t the only sources of scores for their clubs and there’s one more from either side making the top 10 of leading scorers.

Mark Cronin comes in in eighth spot, just one place above Brian Hurley with 2-12 and 0-17 each respectively.

The top 10 scorers are: 

1. Steven Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) 3-36 

2. Luke Connolly (Nemo Rangers) 5-22 

3. Cian Dorgan (Ballincollig) 1-23 

4. Dara Ó Sé (Clonakilty) 1-20 

5. Fiachra Lynch (Valley Rovers) 0-22 

6. Mark Collins (Castlehaven) 2-15 

7. Cillian Myers-Murray (St Finbarr’s) 1-16 

8. Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) 2-12 

9. Brian Hurley (Castlehaven) 0-17 

10. Sean O’Donovan (Ilen Rovers) 0-14

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