A SECOND title in four seasons for St Finbarr's, hard-earned after an enthralling arm-wrestle with Clonakilty in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
There was never more than two points between the sides, underdogs Clon shutting down the Barrs' running game for long spells and, through the man-marking of Tom Clancy and a collective defensive effort, limiting Steven Sherlock's chances from play.
Ultimately though, Sherlock nailed the match-winning point, a trademark effort on the move after terrific work from sub Eoghan McGreevey. The championship's top-scorer was hounded relentlessly yet scored 0-3 from play, was fouled for one of the frees he slotted over, and had an assist, serious going. He's due another run with Cork next year.
The Barrs' other talisman Ian Maguire was the official Man of the Match, scoring 0-2 and coming up with crucial possessions in the nail-biting second half, along with two assists for Sherlock. His power and honesty of effort is inspirational.
The Blues had more punch off the bench: Cillian Meyers Murray showed repeatedly for possession and clipped a point, Adam Lyne was fouled for a converted free in injury time, and Michael Shields had a hand in two of his side's last four scores. Sam Ryan, Denis O'Brien, scorer of 0-2 from wing-forward, Brian Hayes (until his injury), and keeper John Kerins, who made two first-half saves, all contributed hugely as well.
Clon almost levelled through a last-gasp Mark White shot and probably deserved to force a replay. Sean White and David Lowney were outstanding in the middle third, Clancy and Eoghan Deasy likewise in defence, with Dara Ó Sé, Sean McEvoy and Ross Mannix curling some classy points. Clon set the tone in the first quarter, leading 0-4 to 0-2, but were outscored four points to nil before half-time, which proved costly.
They lost a cracking reply to Nemo in 2017 and on penalties in last winter's semi-final.
Their talent, they deserved more than that 2018 victory over Duhallow. However, as manager Paul O'Keeffe pointed out in the build-up, echoing Clint Eastwood in classic western'deserve' has got nothing to do with it. You have to grind it out, which is exactly what they did.
Haulie O'Neill's record with Clon is incredible, dubbing him the Billy Morgan of the Brewery Town is no exaggeration; he oversaw counties in 1996 and 2009 and returned to steer a team that couldn't get out of the group last season to a final this time. They laid down a marker in the league, making the final where the Barrs shot them down, one of only two competitive losses up to county-final day, the other to the same opposition in the round-robin phase.
Their progress has been built on a solid defensive platform, with bodies behind the ball, in front of sweeper-keeper Mark White. Without a marquee scoring threat from play, though Dara Ó Sé is a deadly free-taker, they shared the shooting burden across the front six.
The loss of Cork wing-back Liam O'Donovan, out for all of 2020, to another injury in the closing stages of the semi-final win over Douglas was a cruel blow but their display here suggests they'll be contenders again.
For the Barrs, the Munster championship awaits, against dual Tipp winners Loughmore Castleiney, picking up the provincial crown would rubberstamp their legacy.
Steven Sherlock (St Finbarr’s): 3-41 (0-17 f, 0-4 45).
Brian Hurley (Castlehaven): 4-29 (0-10 f, 0-2 45, 0-1 m).
Dara Ó Sé (Clonakilty) 2-31: (0-24 f).
Daniel Goulding (Éire Óg): 0-22 (0-14 f, 0-2 45).
Brian Crowley (Valley Rovers): 1-16 (0-11 f).
Cian Dorgan (Ballincollig) 0-17 (0-9 f, 0-2 45, 0-1 m).
Luke Connolly (Nemo Rangers) 2-10 (0-5 f).
Michael Hurley (Castlehaven) 2-8 (0-1 f); Alan O’Hare (Douglas) 1-11 (1-0 pen, 0-4 f, 0-1 45); Conor Russell (Douglas) 0-14 (0-7 f.)