Barrs are Munster club champions after epic win over Austin Stacks

Cork champions overcame a third-quarter collapse to fashion a courageous response in a thrilling climax
Barrs are Munster club champions after epic win over Austin Stacks

Denis O'Brien of St Finbarr's in action against Greg Horan of Austin Stacks at Semple Stadium on Sunday. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

St Finbarr's 2-9 Austin Stacks 1-10 

ST FINBARR'S ended a long wait stretching back to 1986 to finally get their hands on the Munster club football title following a nail-biting victory over Austin Stacks in Thurles on Sunday.

They survived a third-quarter collapse during which the Barrs' six-point half-time lead was whittled down to the minimum as Stacks gained almost total control.

But, the second water-break came at the right time as the Cork champions regrouped to settle matters once more with a Brian Hayes fisted point eventually opening their second-half account in the 50th minute.

St. Finbarrs' Cillian Myers Murray celebrates with the trophy after the game. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
St. Finbarrs' Cillian Myers Murray celebrates with the trophy after the game. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Then, a minute from the end of regulation time, the experienced Michael Shields, on as a substitute, set up another bench-man, Enda Dennehy for a critical goal and a 2-8 to 0-10 lead.

Shields used all his guile to create the opportunity, cutting in from the right to send Dennehy clear and he rounded keeper Wayne Guthrie before rolling the ball into the empty net.

Surely, it was over now, but the Kerry champions held other ideas and cancelled that out with a cracking Sean Quilter goal deep into the four minutes added on for stoppages.

St Finbarr's Ian Maguire celebrates. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
St Finbarr's Ian Maguire celebrates. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

It meant a one-point game, but Shields came again came up trumps by winning a free, which Steven Sherlock nailed via the inside of an upright to seal a memorable victory and spark wild scenes of celebration in the weakening sun.

The Barrs couldn't have dreamed of a brighter start after Cillian Myers-Murray scored a goal inside 20 seconds following a deft flick with his hand by fit-again Hayes, who had taken up a position in front of the posts.

St Finbarr's fans celebrate Cillian Myers Murray’s goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
St Finbarr's fans celebrate Cillian Myers Murray’s goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Keeper Guthrie got a hand to the shot, but couldn't keep the ball from entering the back of his net for a sensational opening.

The shock didn't upset the Kerry champions' modus operandi, however, as they kept it tight by withdrawing hordes of players behind the play when their opponents had possession.

There were only other scorers before the water break with the Barrs' 1-1 to 0-1 in front with a Sherlock free adding to his side's tally.

The resumption brought about a marked improvement in the scoring rate as Stacks returned to plant a couple of quick-fire scores both from Quilter, including a 'mark'.

The Barrs, though, remained composed and continued to play with patience and sensible use of the leather, resulting in three points without response in a six-minute burst.

Wing-back Colin Lyons raided along the right before finishing expertly before a Sherlock free and a Hayes effort left it 1-4 to 0-3 after 25 minutes.

And while Darragh O'Brien pointed a free for Stacks, it was the Cork side who were on top until the interval, adding a second set of three-pointers.

Myers-Murray flung over the first after 29 minutes, Hayes, off his left, adding another as did Sherlock for 1-7 to 0-4 at the short whistle with the Barrs in control.

The second half was totally different, however, as the Barrs began losing their way with Stacks firing over points seemingly at will.

Austin Stacks' Darragh O'Brien is challenged by Billy Hennessy, who had a great game for the Barrs. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Austin Stacks' Darragh O'Brien is challenged by Billy Hennessy, who had a great game for the Barrs. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The Cork champions were grateful for keeper John Kerins stopping Quilter with a brilliant save after 51 minutes which could have been a defining moment had Stacks goaled then.

And they had another hero in Sam Ryan, who did a brilliant marking job on Kieran Donaghy during the second half.

Scorers for St Finbarr's: C Myers-Murray 1-1, S Sherlock 0-4 (0-3 f), E Dennehy 1-0, B Hayes 0-3, C Lyons 0-1.

Austin Stacks: S Quilter 1-4 (0-2 m, 0-1 f), G Horan 0-2, R Shanahan, F Mangan, S O'Callaghan 0-1 each, D O'Brien 0-1 f.

ST FINBARR'S: J Kerins; S Ryan, J Burns, C Scully; C Lyons, B Hennessy, A O'Connor; I Maguire (c), E Comyns; D O'Brien, B Hayes, E McGreevey; C Myers-Murray, S Sherlock, C McCrickard. 

Subs: C Barrett for O'Brien and E Dennehy for Myers-Murray 40, M Shields for McCrickard 48, L Hannigan for McGreevey 56.

AUSTIN STACKS: W Guthrie; C Griffin, D Casey (c), J O'Shea; P O'Sullivan, C Jordan, R Shanahan; J O'Connor, G Horan; M O'Gara, F Mangan, B O'Sullivan; S Quilter, K Donaghy, D O'Brien. 

Subs: S O'Callaghan for B O'Sullivan injured 15, S O'Callaghan for P O'Sullivan and M O'Donnell for O'Brien half-time, A Heinrich for Horan.

Referee: C Maguire (Clare).

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