St Finbarr’s 4-19 Sarsfields 0-19
THREE first-half goals paved the way for St Finbarr’s to top the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC group of death as they saw off Sarsfields at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday.
At the outset of the competition, the section containing this pair, 2020 champions Blackrock and Charleville was considered the toughest one from which to emerge but at the end of it all the Togher outfit were left standing with five points from six and full value for it. An all-city quarter-final against Douglas awaits.
They hit Sars early, opening up a 2-1 to 0-0 lead inside five minutes, and they never ceded their advantage at any stage. A talented young team benefited from the input of senior, U20 and minor inter-county stars while corner-back Cian Walsh was outstanding and Eoghan Finn contributed a hugely important 1-4 and goalkeeper Shane Hurley provided a solid and reliable last line.
Going into the game, the Barrs topped the group on three points and so the avoidance of defeat would be enough to advance from the group stage for the first time since the implementation of the new system. However, given that Sars had impressed in beating Charleville – and could count their previous loss to Blackrock as a missed opportunity – that was easier said than done.
In their previous outing against Blackrock, the Barrs endured a tough start before roaring back to claim victory, but this time they roared into the game with a dream opening.
Ben Cunningham had them off the mark inside the first minute before Eoghan Finn passed to the onrushing Ethan Twomey in the third minute, allowing the midfield to place a shot beyond Alan Kennedy.
Moments later, it got even better as Conor Cahalane found place in the right corner and he picked out his brother Jack, who made no mistake from close range. Aaron Myers belatedly opened the Sars account in the ninth minute and, despite some cheap wides, they clawed their way back, with Shane O’Regan’s first point followed by Myers’ fourth as they closed to within one, 2-3 to 0-8, on 21 minutes. Almost immediately, though, the Barrs – with Ben O’Connor imperious in the middle third – struck for a third goal as Pádraig Buggy fed Brian Hayes. The sense that it might be the Barrs’ day increased when Sars’ Colm McCarthys saw his goal effort come back off the post and by half-time it was 3-5 to 0-11.
The Barrs’ hurling had been crisp and precise but they surely would have expected a Sars response on the resumption and Paul Leopold scored a long-range point for the Riverstown side before Jack O’Connor got his third to make it a one-point game again. Each time Sars came close, the Barrs pushed on again, with William Buckley contributing a good point and then linking with Eoghan Finn – who, just before that, had escaped with a talking-to after a foul, having been booked in the first half. That made it 3-9 to 0-15 and, after Hurley saved from Shane O’Regan, two Ben Cunningham frees opened up a five-point advantage.
With ten minutes left, Myers’ eighth point of the day left four in it, 3-13 to 0-18, but Sars’ next point wouldn’t come until Jack O’Connor’s fourth in the 65th minute.
In between, the Barrs made the game save with a burst of 1-6, Finn with the goal after great work by Hayes while Conor Cahalane and Buggy were influential too. They will move on with confidence.
E Finn 1-4, B Hayes 1-2, B Cunningham 0-4 (0-2 f), J Cahalane 1-1, C Cahalane 0-3, W Twomey 1-0, W Buckley 0-2, C Keane, B O’Connor, P Buggy 0-1 each.
A Myers 0-8 (0-6 f), J O’Connor, S O’Regan 0-4 each, C Darcy 0-2, P Leopold 0-1.
S Hurley; C Walsh, J Burns, E Keane; B Hennessy, D Cahalane, B O’Connor; W Buckley, E Twomey; E Finn, J Cahalane, B Cunningham; C Cahalane, P Buggy, B Hayes.
C Keane for Finn (58), C Doolan for J Cahalane, G O’Connor for E Keane (both 60).
A Kennedy; W Kearney, C O’Sullivan, B Murphy; K Crowley, P Leopold, C Roche; K Murphy, Colm McCarthy; D Kearney, D Hogan, C Darcy; S O’Regan, J O’Connor, A Myers.
J Sweeney for D Kearney (half-time), E Murphy for Crowley (44), L Hackett for Hogan (56), Cathal McCarthy for B Murphy (55).
C O’Regan (Ballyhea).