AS one wag said during the week ‘sure, they might as well go straight to penalties’ in reference to the last two games between the rivals at the stage, last year the city club avenging the previous season’s defeat.
What tends to happen is that the shoot-out overshadows all else that has gone before and that’s the pity, particularly as last term’s offering during regulation time and extra-time was one of those edge-of-the-seat thrillers.
The 2020 edition didn’t carry the same weight in terms of the quality of football with wretched conditions on wind-swept Páirc Uí Rinn Sunday night primarily to blame.
Even at half-time in normal time 12 months ago supporters from both clubs needed a rest after a couple of Steven Sherlock goals helped the Barrs to a 2-7 to 1-7 interval advantage with Brian Hurley scoring the Haven’s goals.
Goals continued to flow on the resumption, Hurley getting his second along with brother Michael also finding the net only for Conor McCrickard to score the Togher club’s third goal, which looked like settling it until Brian Hurley forced extra-time.
Then, it was the west Cork club’s turn to seize control, sweeping three points clear only for Sherlock to nail three frees, including a nerve-tingling equaliser, to send the tie to penalties for the second year running.
Nine kicks were successfully converted, and in some style, too, but it was a terrific save from John Kerins decided a spell-binding contest after they finished 3-16 each apiece, Sherlock accounting for 2-10 and Brian Hurley 2-9.
The pair took almost Polar opposite ways to the knock-out phase. The Barrs carried a swagger of champions in breezing through a section containing Éire Óg, Carrigaline and Carbery Rangers with Sherlock only starting the final match because of his recuperation from minor knee surgery.
Cillian Myers-Murray easily slotted into the role, accumulating 1-19, including 1-4 from play against Rosscarbery, when Sherlock assumed place-kicking duties, finishing with 0-6, half from frees, while Ethan Twomey picked off 2-8 and Brian Hayes 2-7.
Even though they were qualified before the Ross encounter, the champions made no secret of their desire for top seeds to avoid a quarter-final and advance directly to the last four to lighten the workload of their dual contingent. A comfortable 2-13 to 0-10 victory ticked all the boxes.
There was no such luxury for the Haven, however, as they found themselves in exalted company, Nemo Rangers, Clonakilty and annual opponents, Newcestown.
A two-point win over Clon more than hinted at the degree of difficulty and this became further evident in the 3-13 to 1-16 defeat by Nemo before a 3-12 to 1-9 win over Newcestown ensured qualification and a quarter-final date with Mallow.
Brian Hurley increased his tally to 1-25 with 0-7 in a hard-fought 2-14 to 0-13 triumph while youngsters Robbie Minihane and Andrew Whelton also made notable contributions with a goal and two points respectively.
The stage is still packed with the same actors and familiarity doesn’t even come close to describing the rivalry between the pair with the Barrs bent on retaining the Andy Scannell Cup and the Haven desperate to carry it back west.
There’s no denying winning the Munster title by defeating Austin Stacks in the final and then pushing the eventual All-Ireland club champions Kilcoo from Down all the way in a semi-final, which required extra-time, has brought this Barrs team on even more.
They’re driven on as usual by captain Ian Maguire at midfield with Jamie Burns, Sam Ryan and Billy Hennessy bringing experience and know-how to the defence and Sherlock and Myers-Murray spearheading an attack while there’s also impressive depth to the panel.
The Haven are equally blessed with the talent at their disposal, led by captain Mark Collins at midfield and spurred on by Rory Maguire and Damien Cahalane at the back and brothers Conor and Jack as well as the Hurleys and Cathal Maguire up top.
Fasten your safety belts because it’s time for take-off!