McCrickard's double blast guides the 'Barr's to Munster club final

A pair of first-half goals proved decisive for the Cork champions who had to survive a spirited Eire Og second-half effort
McCrickard's double blast guides the 'Barr's to Munster club final

Conor McCrickard of St Finbarr's celebrates after scoring a point during the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Football Championship Semi-Final match between St. Finbarr's and Éire Óg Ennis at Pairc Ui Rinn in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

St Finbarr's 2-14 Eire Og, Ennis, 0-12 

TWO first-half goals from Conor McCrickard helped St Finbarr's qualify for their first Munster Club football final since 1986 after Eire Og provided a stern test in front of a crowd of 1,432 at Pairc Ui Rinn on Sunday.

It was an action-packed semi-final dotted with four black cards, two apiece, a clutch of yellows and a late red for Eire Og midfielder Darren O'Neill, who picked up a second yellow near the end.

St Finbarrs Eoin Comyns knocks the bal away fom Eire Og's (Ennis) Darren O'Neill during the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarrs Eoin Comyns knocks the bal away fom Eire Og's (Ennis) Darren O'Neill during the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Cork champions led by nine points at the interval, but Eire Og, inspired by Ciaran Russell, never gave up and managed to reduce the deficit to four, 2-10 to 0-12 after 50 minutes.

Steven Sherlock steadied the ship by claiming the last four points after McCrickard broke his side's 12-minute duck with an impressive point just after the second water-break.

Sherlock's well-known for his finishing ability, but he showed a keen sense of awareness for the 'Barr's 12th-minute goal, which put them in front for the first time.

Steven Sherlock of St Finbarr's scores a late point for his side during the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Football Championship Semi-Final match between St. Finbarr's and Éire Óg Ennis at Pairc Ui Rinn in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Steven Sherlock of St Finbarr's scores a late point for his side during the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Football Championship Semi-Final match between St. Finbarr's and Éire Óg Ennis at Pairc Ui Rinn in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

While everyone expected a routine point from a free to the right of the posts, the 'Barr's sharp-shooter picked out the unmarked McCrickard with an exquisite pass and the explosive finish high into the net decorated a brilliant move.

That shoved the 'Barr's 1-2 to 0-3 ahead at the first water-break and there was a dramatic start to the resumption as they lost captain Ian Maguire to a black card after an incident on the ground.

He was taken out by Eire Og full-back Aaron Fitzgerald following a typical Maguire surge which led to a fine Cillian Myers-Murray point. Fitzgerald was shown a yellow card.

And while Mark McInerney reduced the deficit with Eire Og's fourth point it was to be their last because 14-man 'Barr's really turned the style, adding 1-3 without response before Maguire's return.

Sam Ryan was instrumental in setting up Myers-Murray for another superb point, followed in quick succession by equally impressive scores from Denis O'Brien and Sherlock before Eire Og were dealt another blow.

Colin Lyons floated a high ball into the danger zone, where the flight caught out Manus Doherty, who could only turn in despair to see McCrickard confidently slip around keeper Nathan Murray and slot in his and his side's second goal for a 2-6 to 0-4 lead after 26 minutes.

Maguire soon made his presence felt on his re-entry to the action, earning a free for Sherlock to knock over nonchalantly for a nine-point interval advantage.

St Finbarrs Cillian Myers-Murray (right) leads the celebrations after defeating Eire Og (Ennis) in the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarrs Cillian Myers-Murray (right) leads the celebrations after defeating Eire Og (Ennis) in the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It was a game for the 'Barr's to lose at this juncture and they knew it still wasn't safe as the Clare side cut the margin to five by the second water-break, outscoring their opponents 0-6 to 0-2 in the period.

Eire Og's tigerish efforts were rewarded with 0-4 without response, including a pair from enterprising centre-back Conall O hAinifein, and the break came at a good time for the 'Barr's to reorganise.

St Finbarrs Ian Maguire breaks from Eire Og's (Ennis) Dara Walsh during the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarrs Ian Maguire breaks from Eire Og's (Ennis) Dara Walsh during the AIB Munster SFC semi -final at Pairc Ui Rinn. . Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Their experience and class told in the closing 10 minutes, notably when Sherlock, under intense pressure, popped over a super point off his left to restore the five-point cushion and there was no way back for the battling Clare champions after that.

Scorers for St Finbarr's: S Sherlock 0-9, 6f, 1 'mark', C McCrickard 2-1, C Myers-Murray 0-3, D O'Brien 0-1.

Scorers for Eire Og: G Cooney 0-4, 2f, M McInerney 0-3, C O hAinifen 0-2, D O'Neill, P Talty, E Courtney 0-1 each.

ST FINBARR'S: J Kerins; C Scully, J Burns, S Ryan; C Lyons, B Hennessy, A O'Connor; I Maguire, captain, E Comyns; D O'Brien, C McCrickard, M Shields; C Myers-Murray, S Sherlock, E Dennehy.

Subs: E McGreevey for Shields 40, B O'Connell for Dennehy and A Lyne for O'Brien 47, L Hannigan for Lyons 53, C Walsh for Myers-Murray 60.

EIRE OG: N Murray; M Doherty, A Fitzgerald, R Lanigan; E O'Connor, C O hAinifein, C Russell; D O'Neill, D McNamara; A McGrath, D Reidy, N McMahon; P Talty, G Cooney, captain, M McInerney.

Subs: I Ugwueru for McGrath 24, D Walsh for Reidy 39, E Courtney for McMahon 43, D O'Brien for Talty and T Connellan for McInerney 60.

Referee: B Griffin (Kerry).

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