Cork's best two clubs gear-up for epic climax to thrilling football season

Fierce rivals St Finbarr's and Nemo Rangers go head-to-head once again in county final at the end of the month
Cork's best two clubs gear-up for epic climax to thrilling football season

2nd October 2022 St. Finbarr's Sam Ryan saves on the line from Castlehaven's Mark Collins during the Bon Secours Cork Premier SFC semi final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

THE dream final is on, a mouth-watering Bon Secours county PSFC showdown between the holders St Finbarr’s and the most successful club in not only Cork, but the whole country, Nemo Rangers, at the end of month.

Both impressed in different ways in Sunday’s contrasting semi-finals though there were common features like composure and undoubted self-belief running through their respective performances as well as the big players stepping up.

And while the much-strapped board coffers are unlikely to be swelled on this occasion, it should showcase the strengths of Cork football in a game that won’t be defence-minded as there are attacking powerhouses in both camps, Steven Sherlock and Luke Connolly, the stand-out finishers.

Yet, a lot will happen outside the control of the respective football camps in both clubs before the big day eventually arrives and while the ’Barr’s also deal with a county senior hurling final on Sunday week, Nemo, too, have similar commitments.

And while it may be on a more modest level capturing the city junior title against Brian Dillons on Sunday is the next target for the club celebrating its 100th birthday with a liberal sprinkling of dual players involved.

A Nemo victory, though, has the potential to cause some fixture headaches for the Trabeg club as they would face a county quarter-final against the Imokilly champions on the weekend of the 22nd-23rd, a week before the ’Barr’s showdown.

The hurling tie would be put back in that eventuality as there is no great pressure on Cork to have their final played because their representatives are not involved in Munster club action until the semi-final stage on November 19-20.

But there’s a bigger picture to be looked at here because if Cork are going to be represented by a club or clubs doubly involved in the provincial championships then that could really create difficulties for dual players, though that’s not a factor for the moment.

The ’Barr’s will rightly believe this is their best chance of finally getting one over their great rivals in a county final bringing the most successful clubs in recent years on an exciting collision course.

Between them they’ve won the last five titles, the ’Barr’s also winning in 2018 with Nemo champions in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

It will also be their fifth time clashing in a decider if you factor in the 2017 replay after the pair couldn’t be separated at 0-14 each apiece before Nemo won an amazing second game by 4-12 to 3-13.

They also met in the 2010 edition, Nemo having five points to spare, 2-10 to 1-8, and before that, you had to go back to 1993 for the first installment, Nemo again prevailing by 0-13 to 0-4.

History, though, is unlikely to be a factor in separating them this time, particularly as there’s no denying the improvement in the ’Barr’s since annexing Munster last season and pushing the eventual champions Kilcoo from Down all the way in an All-Ireland club semi-final, which required extra-time.

It has given them a much-needed shot of confidence to know they’re more than capable of rubbing shoulders with the best as well as the experience of being able to draw from a pool containing important levels of courage and composure.

This was particularly evident after Brian Hurley put brother Michael in for a cracking goal towards the end of the first-half as Castlehaven swept 1-8 to 0-8 in front, when they cancelled it out with three points from play, courtesy of Eoin McGreevey, Sherlock with a beauty and Jamie Burns, who, of all players, popped up with the ninth equaliser.

Then, it was the ’Barr’s turn to surge three clear, again points from play from Brian Hayes, Enda Dennehy and a fine Cillian-Myers effort before the Haven rallied.

An inspiring Damien Cahalane score tied matters for the 10th time and Cathal Maguire nudged them ahead, 1-12 to 0-14 by the 40th minute.

But, the manner in which Sherlock, first, and Hayes, then, took their goal chances also reflected the change in the ’Barr’s.

Both missed glorious opportunities in the first period, though not in the second, Colm Scully setting up Sherlock for a screamer before Hayes went round outstanding keeper Anthony Seymour for the killer second goal.

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