ST Finbarr’s are bidding to become the first club side from Cork to win the Munster Senior Club Football Championship aside from Nemo Rangers since the 1999 triumph of UCC, when they face off against Kerry kingpins Austin Stacks at Semple Stadium on Sunday.
Cork are well ahead of Kerry in terms of Munster titles won by their respective clubs, with 29 titles won versus the 19 garnered by Kerry clubs, since the genesis of the competition back in 1964, which was won by the north Kerry division of Shannon Rangers.
Of course, there is a sizeable black and green coloured footnote to the above boast, and that is in the form of Nemo Rangers, who have won a simply ridiculous 17 Munster crowns since they won their first back in 1972, when seeing off Clare side Doonbeg by 3-9 to 0-5. What is perhaps even more impressive is the fact that these 17 titles came in 19 Munster finals, with the losses of 1977 and 2015 proving to be the two aberrations.
So obviously the Munster landscape would be amended significantly if we were to remove Nemo from proceedings, with the Capwell side outgunning the other Cork clubs combined, as the rest of the county have 12 between them.
St. Finbarr’s have a proud record themselves, and they still are third in the all-time list of provincial winners, despite not winning a title in 36 years, with only Nemo and Dr. Crokes ahead of them.
The Barrs were in seven provincial finals in their glory era that was 1976 to 1986, with them winning four of those finals in 1979, 1980, 1982 and 1986. What made that even more impressive is the fact that they were also busy winning four Munster hurling titles from 1968 to 1980, backboned by essentially the same group of players, and indeed they have the distinction of being the only club to win the senior football and hurling Munster in the same year, a feat they achieved in the annus mirabilis that was 1980.
Their opponents on Sunday, Austin Stacks, also have an illustrious history to look back on, as they are going for a third title to add to their 1976 and 2014 triumphs, which is not a bad record considering that this year was only their sixth county title in that period. A victory on Sunday would give them a 50% provincial success rate.
Possibly what was most impressive about Austin Stacks county title victory this year is the fact that they are a team in the real sense.
They still have Kieran ‘Star’ Donaghy amongst their ranks, but that’s just about the only star they have, as a quick browse of last year’s Kerry panel shows the number of county men in their team is zero.
And yet, despite this, the Tralee side are going to start Sunday’s final as favourites with the bookmakers.
Perhaps it’s the Kerry factor at play? Maybe it is because a quick inspection of the Barrs panel might suggest that captain Ian Maguire is the only current county man in the side? Whatever the reason, being underdogs should suit the Togher outfit.
Steven Sherlock has been shooting the lights out this year, which has gotten him back into the Cork reckoning, but the Barrs attack is far from a one-trick pony, with Cillian-Myers Murray and Down senior star Conor McCrickard offering excellent support to their main sharpshooter. If all three can get in on the scoring act on Sunday then they could well have too much firepower for Stacks.
While that ’99 UCC victory remains the last Cork victory, other than Nemo, it is worth noting that between 1992 and 1999 four different Cork clubs were Munster champions. The late great Mick McCarthy had inspired O’Donovan Rossa to victory in 1992 before Nemo picked off the 1993 title, and then Castlehaven came along to add the 1994 and 1997 crowns to the one they had garnered in 1989.
Different Cork clubs had regularly won at provincial level throughout the ’70s and ’80s as well. It is no surprise that this success coincided with the Cork footballers dominating between 1987 and 1995, winning seven of nine titles. Perhaps a Barrs victory could be the catalyst for a revival at inter-county level as well.