St Finbarr's v Castlehaven: Epic semi-final is already a classic

The Barrs and the Haven served up a treat in one of the greatest county football championship games of all time
St Finbarr's v Castlehaven: Epic semi-final is already a classic

Tempers flare during extra time. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE best advice about trying to make sense of Sunday’s St Finbarr’s-Castlehaven epic is don’t because it will only wreck your head. It has mine.

From the moment Steven Sherlock blasted in the opening goal after 90 seconds to keeper John Kerins slotting home the winning penalty, this Bon Secours county premier senior football championship semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh had everything.

Was it the greatest club game ever seen on Leeside? It’s certainly up there and who could argue against it?

Fascinating individual tussles abounded from Cork pair and rival captains Ian Maguire and Mark Collins at midfield to Damien Cahalane and Sam Ryan attempting to keep an eye on Sherlock and Brian Hurley respectively.

And there was much, much more like the performance of Jamie Burns for the Barrs. His best ever in a blue jersey?

Manager Paul O’Keeffe seemed to think so. “Oh, I'd say by a mile. But look, he's been going well for us all year. He's a massive engine and Jamie’s a huge man as well,” he said.

Every game has a number of obvious staging posts, such as the water-breaks, half-time, turning points, but this had umpteen, including a remarkably high standard of penalties, nine scored from 10.

Take the first water break after 16 minutes. Michael Hurley goaled for the Haven, who led 1-4 to 1-3, but almost on the resumption, Sherlock slammed in his second.

 Steven Sherlock, the Barrs ace forward, scores a goal against Castlehaven. Picture: Larry Cummins
Steven Sherlock, the Barrs ace forward, scores a goal against Castlehaven. Picture: Larry Cummins

Approaching the interval the city club led 2-7 to 1-7, but Kerins needed to stand up strong to turn away a Michael Hurley rasper.

By the second water-break, the west Cork side had marched 3-9 to 2-8 clear courtesy of two cracking Brian Hurley goals in seven minutes.

Yet, within five minutes of the re-start, the lead had changed hands once more, a Conor McCrickard goal and a couple of Sherlock points edging the Barrs one in front.

They were two in front in injury-time only for Brian Hurley to tie it up at 3-9 apiece, his equalising 45 mired in controversy.

“The original decision of wide was overturned and you're thinking, 'Oh God, here we go again.'

“I'm not totally sure, but again I'll go back and watch the video. It should be a bit easier to watch this video than last year's one,” O’Keeffe commented.

As for Brian Hurley? “He'd an unbelievable game, scoring 2-9, and was very hard to contain. It looked like he was going to goals every time he got the ball, no matter what we did.

“We were a bit porous down the middle, especially when we were very vulnerable to that long ball in, once he gets the ball on the 14, he's lethal.” 

INCREDIBLE

And so to extra-time and yet more drama, level again at half-time at 3-13 each before the Haven swept three clear.

Sherlock jumped to the rescue, turning ball over in a key moment before holding his nerve to force penalties.

“I couldn't watch his last free. It was an all-or-nothing kick, Roy of the Rovers stuff. It wasn't good for the nerves,” admitted O’Keeffe.

The shoot-out was spell-binding because of the quality and you’d have to feel for the Haven’s Rory Maguire, whose rising shot brought the best out of Kerins.

Now it’s the final against Clonakilty on Sunday week, a repeat of their group game in qualifying and the 2009 decider won by Clon by a point.

“The only sad part is there's no silverware at the end of it. We've to do it all again and I'm sure Clon will be lying in the long grass for us after that.

“There'll be a lot of talk about this game for the next couple of weeks. There probably won't be too much said about Clon, but we'll know they'll be waiting for us in two weeks so we'll take nothing for granted,” O’Keeffe concluded.

Anyone expecting a repeat of Sunday should be warned at this stage. It won’t, but still enthralling all the same.

A decade ago O’Keeffe masterminded UCC’s most recent county title following a five-point win over the Haven in the final and now the Barrs are in their third decider in five seasons.

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