St Finbarr's v Éire Óg: Barrs eager to erase memories of 2018 hammering

The Blues were sweep out of the Munster championship by Dr Crokes three years ago
St Finbarr's v Éire Óg: Barrs eager to erase memories of 2018 hammering

Denis O'Brien of St Finbarr's in action against Eoghan Deasy of Clonakilty. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: Munster semi-final: St Finbarr’s v Éire Óg, Ennis, Páirc Uí Rinn, 1.30pm.

IN ONE respect, this is an opportunity for the bulk of the 2018 county-winning side to redeem themselves after their last visit to the provincial arena.

All bar a handful of the current victorious squad experienced a traumatic afternoon in the Killarney rain three years ago, when Dr Croke’s dished out a painful lesson in a 5-20 to 1-11 rout, en route to the title. Their paths have gone in opposite directions since, however, and while the Barrs regained the Cork title, Dr Croke’s had to deal with a more humbling relegation play-off in Kerry.

But, this is a different time and the Togher club face unfamiliar opponents in Éire Óg, from Ennis, who ended their long wait for the Clare title by overcoming Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the final to claim their first success since 2006.

That year, Éire Óg came a cropper to Nemo Rangers, also in the semi-final, going down 1-9 to 0-3, and the Barrs are 1/3 with the bookies to make it to the final against Kerry kingpins, Austin Stacks, who are 1/6 to get the better of Newcastlewest in the other semi-final.

Most of the Barrs class of 2018 remain and they’ve others, like Sam Ryan, Billy Hennessy, Colm Barrett and Cillian Myers-Murray, from which to select their starting 15, as well.

The Cork champions will look for guidance from their experienced players, captain Ian Maguire in the middle, Colin Lyons and Jamie Burns in defence, and Denis O’Brien in attack.

There’s an exciting, youthful look to the side, with Barrett, Myers-Murray, and newcomer Conor McCrickard all adding to a finely balanced combination, no matter what team takes the field.

Up top, there’s the leading scorer in the county, Steven Sherlock, who accumulated 3-41 from half-a-dozen outings in the championship, including 0-7 in the narrow final victory over Clonakilty.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Like their opponents, Éire Óg are also a dual football and hurling club featuring 10 players who would be regular starters in both. The Ennis club were one of the fancies in hurling, but lost in the semi-final and they’ve already played one game in Munster against Tipperary’s dual champions, Loughmore-Castleiney.

And Éire Óg needed extra-time, as well, to progress, winning 2-11 to 0-12, thanks to a couple of quick-fire goals at the start of additional time.

The first came from rampaging full-back Aaron Fitzgerald, who finished with a cracking shot, before full-forward Mark McInerney, whose father Francis captained Clare to that shock 1992 Munster final win over Kerry, added the second.

It was a tight game during the regulation hour, Éire Óg ahead by a point at the break, 0-6 to 0-5, and three clear with 10 minutes remaining, before Loughmore-Castleiney reeled them in.

Éire Óg have a number of representatives in the Clare set-up, including defender Ciaran Russell, who forms part of an attack-minded half-back line, midfielder Darren O’Neill, and captain Gavin Cooney in the inside line.

McInerney played for Clare U20s during the summer, as did defender Manus Doherty, while Ikem Ugwveru, who has blistering pace, has also been involved with the county. Éire Óg are managed by Paul Madden, who played in the '06 winning team, and former Limerick player, Seanie Buckley, is on board as coach.

The Barrs were involved in many tight scrapes on their way to a 10th county, beginning with a high-scoring, one-point win over Ballincollig and highlighted by the memorable penalty shoot-out semi-final win over Castlehaven.

They also had to face some anxious moments in the final, too, as Clon, who lost to the Barrs by 1-12 to 1-5 in the group phase, went close to forcing a replay.

Éire Óg will supply a similar challenge in that they also like to attack from deep, though may lack scoring power. Stacks, meanwhile, are expected to have too much for Limerick champions, Newcastlewest, in the other semi-final and at home in Tralee, as well.

Newcastlewest overcame Waterford champions, The Nire, by 0-8 to 0-6 in the quarter-final, but Stacks represent a major step-up in class.

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