St Finbarr's Paul O’Keeffe: We'll bounce back and learn from county final loss to Nemo

'Maybe our boys were nervous at the start of the game, Nemo came right at us. We were waiting to settle rather than taking the game to them...'
St Finbarr's Paul O’Keeffe: We'll bounce back and learn from county final loss to Nemo

St Finbarr's Paul O'Keeffe will be back on the sideline next season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

PAUL O’KEEFE and St Finbarr’s cannot wait for next year’s Bon Secours Cork PSFC to come around following a disappointing conclusion to 2022.

You could have heard a pin drop in the Barrs’ dressing room shortly after this year’s Premier Senior county final. This wasn’t how the reigning Cork and Munster champions' campaign was supposed to end deep in the bowels of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In imperious form throughout the group stage, St Finbarr’s produced another marvellous display to see off rivals Castlehaven in the penultimate round.

Unsurprisingly, speculation about a possible Barrs ‘double’ in the build-up to the county football decider was everywhere following the city club’s Premier Hurling final success over the Rockies.

Nemo were dealing with their own hype as Rangers looked to celebrate its 100th year by reclaiming the Andy Scannell cup.

So there was pressure on both clubs ahead of what was expected to be a closely-fought county final matchup. Instead, Nemo dominated from the first minute to the last and won 1-16 to 2-9.

Make no mistake, Paul O’Donovan’s side were merited winners. Sharper, hungrier and winning the majority of 50/50 balls, Nemo never allowed the Barrs a moment to settle and dictated the pace.

Picking through the debris of St Finbarr’s below-par performance has lengthened the winter months for manager Paul O’Keefe.

“Look, you learn a lot from those types of experiences,” the Barrs manager said.

“I don’t know if I would call losing that final complacency or what you would call it really.

This year’s county final showed that every championship game has a life of its own. We certainly didn’t underestimate Nemo Rangers. We wouldn’t do that no matter what game we were playing them in.

“Maybe our boys were nervous at the start of the game, Nemo came right at us. We were waiting to settle rather than taking the game to them.

“We missed a great goal chance midway through the first half even though, for whatever reasons, we were flat for the first 15 minutes.

“There were still only a couple of points in it, a goal would have settled us and it would have been game on. It just didn’t happen and things got worse.

“Finally, when we got a goal, we seemed to wake up but the game was gone at that stage. I still don’t know. Maybe we bought into the hype a little too much coming up to the final, I don’t know for certain.

“Clearly something went wrong with the process in that we failed to perform on the day. The big lesson for us coming out of this year, I suppose, is to be better prepared for when things go wrong and how better to respond.

“That’s the big takeaway from this year’s county final, from the Barrs’ point of view. It wasn’t a great experience that day.” 


It is not all doom and gloom. There is more than enough talent within the Barrs senior football panel to mount a comeback in 2023.

Not dissimilar to Nemo’s renaissance, a renewed hunger to right the wrongs of their poor county final display should act as a catalyst to inspire St Finbarr’s next season.

Might once again becoming the hunters rather than the hunted suit the 2021 Cork PSFC and Munster champions?

“You’d certainly hope so,” O’Keefe admitted. “We won’t really know until the players come back and get stuck into training to see where everyone is at.

The Barrs have not turned into a bad team overnight. There is still a savage panel there and a load of young fellas coming through that we will be looking at as well. 

"Hopefully, we can discover one or two more during the county league campaign as well. Those players will be given their opportunity next year. Hopefully, that will add more depth to our senior football panel as well as a bit more hunger.

“It is important that the Barrs senior panel has fellas putting pressure on your established fifteen or twenty next year. You will get more out of your players if fellas are looking over their shoulder because they know they have to perform.

“I’d certainly hope that will be the case going forward into next year and beyond. We need to drive things on and get that county final defeat out of our system. It still gnaws away at you. Everyone is keen to get started again and get on with things for next year. That’s a good thing.”

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