ST Finbarr’s early-season form is an ominous indicator of what’s to come as the reigning Cork PSFC and Munster club champions have yet to hit top gear.
Six victories from eight Cork Credit Unions Division 1 Group A fixtures has the Barr’s primed for a county league semi-final berth.
Achieving that goal will be all the more impressive considering the county champions have been without their Cork contingent since the beginning of the campaign. Victory over Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh in their final Group A outing will seal a last-four place for a St Finbarr’s panel eager to build on their 2021 successes.
Naturally, senior manager Paul O’Keefe is delighted with his players' combined efforts so far this term. O’Keefe is equally pleased with his backroom team’s endeavours ahead of a potentially hectic county league knockout and Cork PSFC championship schedule.
“To be fair Jim O’Donoghue and Brian Roche have been handling all the on-field stuff,” the St Finbarr’s manager commented.
“Day to day, there is very little for me to do and I let the two lads get on with things. Everything is running smoothly to be honest with you and that is a good thing for the Barrs.
Results have certainly gone St Finbarr’s way despite the county champions encountering an expected hangover following last year’s elongated campaign that ended in late January.
“Our first couple of games, we suffered a bit of a hangover after last year alright but I was glad, in a way, as we got it out of our system,” O’Keefe noted.
“I’d have been more worried if we had been lifting right from the start. We were due a comedown after everything that happened last year. We lost two league games (to Castlehaven and Ballincollig) in a row and I admit that I was getting a bit concerned.
“But we turned the corner after that with wins over Mallow, Newcestown and Fermoy. Then we beat Kiskeam the last day. So, I am happy with where we are right now as we are going well. That’s important.”
St Finbarr’s are blessed with a large panel brimming with quality. So, what was the thinking ahead of 2022? Bring in new blood during the league or stay with the tried and trusted to keep the momentum going from last year’s heroics?
“A mixture of both, to be honest. You are always looking to develop new players. There’s a lot of talent coming through from last year’s minor team and you want to bring through as well.
“We wanted to use the league to give a few young fellas their chance. The problem with that is a lot of them are doing their Leaving Cert.
“You cannot rest on your laurels. So you’d hope that the Barrs will keep improving. Hopefully, we have learned a few lessons from last year’s All-Ireland club semi-final with Kilcoo and will improve on that.
“We are certainly not looking beyond the first round of this year’s championship. That Éire Óg game is our focus right now and is coming at us fairly quickly.
“Look, the last couple of league games have been very good. We have been missing a good few players between the Cork hurlers and footballers too. It has been good to give other lads an opportunity and to be fair, most of those lads have taken their chance.
“That gives us an additional headache when it comes to team selection but, again, that’s a good thing.”
The confidence gained from winning county and Munster titles is hard to quantify. There is a new kind pressure on the St Finbarr’s management and players shoulders for 2022.
“You’d be conscious that you have a target on your back this year, definitely. Everyone wants to beat the Barrs because we are county and Munster champions. It makes things that more competitive when you go out to play.
“It hasn’t really changed what we do. The same focus is there going forward. There is a job to be done this year. It would be massive for us to defend the county title. That’s our objective but we are taking nothing for granted. One game at a time.”