WHAT A season the St Finbarr’s hurlers had.
The Blues were banished as they lifted the Séan Óg Murphy Cup for the first time in 29 years. The scenes on Bandon Road the night of the county final success will live on forever.
The Barrs hurlers led by the Barrack Street Band on that Sunday night was something they had dreamt of since their last county SHC title back in 1993. The drought was so long that captain Billy Hennessy wasn’t even born along with many other players on the panel.
Even though St Finbarr’s were under the tutelage of the experienced Ger Cunningham, they were an unknown quantity at the start of the season. The city club failed to get out of the group stages in 2020 and 2021, and the league results in 2022 were mixed: three wins, one draw and five defeats from nine games.
But it is at the end of the day, all about peaking at the right time, and the Barrs had the poise and class when it mattered.
The battle chant ofwas in full flow on Sunday 16th of October. It was a proud moment for Hennessy, who became the first Barrs captain since Mick Barry back in 1993, to lift the county SHC trophy. Hennessy was born nine days before the Barrs lost the SHC semi-final to the eventual winners Imokilly in August 1997; they were expected to lift a 26th title in the years to follow, but it didn’t pan out like that.
2022 was finally the year, as the Civil Engineer reflects on a historic achievement.
“There has been a lot of talk about the famine being over and now that the dust has settled, it’s a magnificent achievement to win the county. There is a great sense of satisfaction that the hard work over the years has paid dividends.
"In the final against Blackrock, to play the way we did considering what was at stake and the awful weather conditions, it was pleasing. The second half in particular was very impressive, we got two goals which helped us massively.”
The Barrs came through the group of death as many were calling it, and grew in confidence, with a nice mixture of experience and the young gems like Ben Cunningham with the X-factor up front, it proved to be the perfect balance, as Hennessy explains.
“We drew against Charleville in the first game, which put us on the back foot straight away. We were a small bit disappointed, but we didn’t have time to dwell on it and we then beat Blackrock the following week, despite being nine points down after 20 minutes. That game gave us huge confidence heading into the last group game against Sarsfields, it was another do-or-die contest and thankfully we came out on the right side and finished top of the table. We then defeated Douglas in the quarter-final and Newtownshandrum in the last four. Those two games were close and tough and it put us in a good place heading into the final.”
A lot of very good managers have tried to mastermind a county-winning hurling team since 1993, but for whatever reason, it never came to fruition until 2022. When the news broke in January that Ger Cunningham would be taking over, it was seen as a statement by the Togher club, so what was the key ingredient in getting St Finbarr’s over the line?
“Togetherness was huge, without a doubt. Everything just came together,” the Barrs defender added.
“Ger is a very experienced manager, he brought in a few young players, and they improved the group.
Time doesn’t wait for anyone, and attention will soon turn to preseason training for 2023. The Barrs will be defending champions for the first time since the 1994 season, and with that comes that added pressure.
But for Hennessy, who made his senior debut for the club in the first round against Douglas in 2015 as a minor, the team will relish the challenge.
“It will be difficult, we are not an unknown quantity as such anymore. Newtownshandrum, Kanturk and Sarsfields are in our championship group, very difficult, but we will be ready when the time comes.”