St Finbarr's experience means they need to now push on in Munster

Derek Daly hails the Barrs' leadership and class in seeing off stubborn underdogs Clon
St Finbarr's experience means they need to now push on in Munster

St Finbarr's Eoghan McGreevey and Michael Shields celebrate the win over Clonakilty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHEN you are deep in a hole and treading water, you turn to your big players to dig you out. 

That is precisely what St Finbarr’s did as they came out the right side of an enthralling Bon Secours Premier Senior Football final on Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh against Clonakilty.

It was no surprise that sharpshooter supreme Steven Sherlock kicked the winner in the 64th minute, but he had to be extremely patient. 

On October 17, when these sides met in the group stage the Barrs managed to win by 1-12 to 1-5, but Clon restricted Sherlock to just a goal from play in Coachford. The west Cork side largely shut him down again on Sunday, with Tom Clancy doing a tremendous man-marking job.

After kicking 2-6 from play in the semi-final win over Castlehaven he was effectively starved of possession. Yet he still scored 0-3 from play and crucially he was in the right place at the right time after Gearoid Barry had kicked a brilliant equaliser for Clon in stoppage time.

Eoghan McGreevey managed to find him with probably was the one accurate kick pass he received all day, and you knew he was going to split the posts once he received it.

St Finbarr's Steven Sherlock shoots from Tom Clancy of Clonakilty. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
St Finbarr's Steven Sherlock shoots from Tom Clancy of Clonakilty. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

And while Sherlock might get the glory for the winning score, it simply would not have been possible only for the brilliant performance of captain Ian Maguire in midfield. 

Maguire had his huge paw prints all over this victory. Clonakilty had started the second half on fire, and levelled affairs by the 35th minute at 0-7 apiece. The Barrs were struggling but two typically huge drives up the middle by Maguire yielded two points for Sherlock, from play and a free. 

He then followed those up with another direct run in the 52nd minute where he took his own point by fisting over.

And when Clonakilty’s Dara O’Sé had equalised in the 60th minute John Kerins hoofed it long, and it was Maguire who reached up into the darkening Cork skies to claim the kick-out. A captain’s performance.

Clon will certainly have regrets. They will lament that second quarter where they failed to register a score and Mark White’s sweeper-keeper runs dried up, which just shows how important he is to their game plan.

It was the much-heralded midfield duo of Maguire and Brian Hayes who registered the Barrs' first two scores, and a full 20 minutes had elapsed before their first forward got on the scoresheet, when Sherlock tapped over a free. The first Blues forward to split the posts from play came in the 22nd minute when the impressive Denis O’Brien curled over a beauty from the right.

While Clonakilty manager Haulie O’Neill would have been happy with the first half there would certainly have been concern over their high turnover rate, which was 14 in that opening half to St Finbarr’s six. In fairness to Clon, this stat pointed to the contrasting way that both teams approached the final. 

The Barrs may have had fewer turnovers, but this was largely down to the slow nature of their build-up play, whereas Clon tended to try and attack at pace. The wide count in the first half somewhat balanced out those turnovers stats as well, as the Barrs kicked six wides to Clonakilty’s one in that opening half.

Clon’s turnover rate did come down in the second half, to just nine, and that was reflected on the scoreboard, as they kicked nine points in that half. Mark White had one final effort to level matters from distance with the last kick of the game, but the ball drifted agonisingly wide, in what was only Clon’s third wide, which shows you how accurate they are in terms of executing their game plan.

While Dara Ó Sé’s free-taking was incredibly important to Clonakilty, the dual threat of Ross Mannix (0-2) and Sean McEvoy (0-3) had the Barrs rearguard in trouble throughout, and their midfield import from Listowel, Joe Grimes, again showed that he is one of the best midfielders in the club scene right now. 

Obviously, the absence of Liam O’Donovan was a huge blow to Clonakilty. 

Alas, they will never know whether his presence might have been enough to guide them to a 10th county title, and they had to endure the sight of the Barrs lifting their 10th title instead.

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