John Horgan: St Finbarr's and Blackrock can deliver a classic county final

After very dominant displays in their Premier Senior Hurling semis, the city rivals will give us a game to remember on October 16
John Horgan: St Finbarr's and Blackrock can deliver a classic county final

St Finbarr's Damien Cahalane wins the ball from Newtownshandrum's Cormac O'Brien and Ronan Geary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IF you were looking for two hurling humdingers last Sunday, Páirc Uí Chaoimh was not the place to be.

Immense credit must be given to the Rockies and the Barrs for emerging victorious in the semi-finals of the Premier Cork County SHC. In both instances, they far were superior to their vanquished rivals, Erin’s Own and Newtownshandrum but it would be fair to say that neither game really ignited to any great degree.

In fact, there was a sense of the inevitable from a good distance out, the greater firepower from both winners a decisive factor.

What it all means, of course, is that for the first time since 1982 the old city rivals will collide again on the final day.

From a neutral perspective, it’s probably the final pairing that they had hoped for, a throwback to days long gone when they formed the triumvirate of clubs from the city that dominated Cork club hurling.

 The Barrs fans now have a county hurling final to look forward to. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The Barrs fans now have a county hurling final to look forward to. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A lot of water has passed under Patrick’s Bridge since those days and the emergence of so many rural clubs has changed the landscape of hurling in the county.

But here we are again, two clubs with a very rich heritage coming together to try and claim a prize that is cherished by all who have been fortunate to do so.

For the Barrs, it’s going to be a final day of great significance as they seek to end a very long and very impatient sojourn in the wilderness stretching back to 1993.

Many of the Barrs supporters at headquarters last Sunday have never seen the old trophy reside in their domain in Togher. No club has any divine right to anything but 29 years is far too long for a club of the Barrs stature.

But they are where they want to be again against a Rockies team that have visited the winner’s enclosure far more recently.

Erin's Own's Darra Twomey breaks from Blackrock's Tadhg Deasy and Robbie Cotter during the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Erin's Own's Darra Twomey breaks from Blackrock's Tadhg Deasy and Robbie Cotter during the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Erin’s Own fought the good fight in the opening semi-final but the greater scoring power of the Rockies was always evident while the Caherlag team were overly dependent on the outstanding Robbie O’Flynn. It was a game with another chapter added to the story of goals making all the difference and the three superbly converted by Tadhg Deasy, Robbie Cotter and Michael O’Halloran were scores of great importance.

Let there be no doubt it, this is a good Rockies team with a strong balance throughout the field, a unit that have already climbed to and conquered the mountaintop. And the men from Church Road will not be short of motivation in the final, facing a team that has already beaten them in this championship at the group stage.

In fact, you could suggest that defeat had to be one of the most disappointing they had endured in recent times, squandering a nine-point advantage that they enjoyed in the game’s opening sequences.

The Barrs were superb that night in reinventing themselves to claim the points on offer but be certain sure the Rockies won’t have forgotten it.

In stark contrast to that game, the Barrs hit Newtown with an avalanche of scores in the opening quarter last Sunday, 1-9 to 0-1 ahead and thereafter it was very much a case of what we have, we hold. Newtown did battle away admirably but being reduced to 14 players early in the contest certainly did not help their cause.

People will have differing opinions on the red card issued to Conor Twomey for a heavy challenge on the outstanding Ben Cunningham but Newtown were always second best. The Barrs played some superb hurling at times en route to their emphatic victory and it’s becoming clearly obvious that this is side gaining in confidence with every passing game.

Similar to the Rockies, they too have plenty of scoring potential with Cunningham, Brian Hayes, Conor Cahalane among others securing some sublime scores.

The blend in the side is strong too and they are starting to believe again that their time has come to reign supreme once more.

The vast majority will hold the viewpoint that two of Cork’s most decorated clubs squaring up to each other again in a final will be for the greater good of Cork hurling.

And maybe it will because on both teams there is plenty of potential that can benefit the plans of the new Cork management.

Robbie Cotter for the Rockies notched 1-3, Ethan Twomey, got good scores for the Barrs, so too Conor Cahalane and, of course, Ben Cunningham.

For Erin’s Own, in particular, they might feel that by passing the quarter-finals and taking the direct route to the last four, leaving them championship idle for a month militated against them.

In these types of situations that is always a matter of opinion but Rockies having to go to the wire against Imokilly might have had them that bit more battle-hardened.

We are probably still waiting for a game in this championship that will be the talk of the town on Monday morning.

It’s been a very good championship without being a great one but we now have the right pairing to really set the tongues wagging.

A Barrs and Rockies decider will surely pull in a huge audience, at least 20,000 and wouldn’t it be great if we got a game to match what should be a truly wonderful occasion?

Any all city final is extra special and with this pairing, we have been waiting long enough for it.

Footnote: When the Barrs triumphed in 1982, John Blake was the captain, the great Con Roche was the man in charge and JBM secured 1-3. Rockies legends, the late and great John Horgan was the team boss while Pat Moylan wore the captain’s armband.

The final scoreline read Barrs 2-17 Rockies 3-9.

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