THIRTY SIX years ago this week, St Finbarr’s faced Castleblayney Faughs with a place in the All-Ireland Club Football Championship final at stake and they won the replay 3-5 to 2-07 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
The Blues drew the first game 1-12 to 2-9 at St Mary’s Park in Monaghan and they met again two weeks later in Cork.
The Barrs delivered a ‘performance rich in character’ as reported by the Cork Examiner and they swept the Ulster champions aside with a first-half showing that left Faughs with just two points.
This was typical of a team that regularly blew clubs aside before seeing out the game, a habit they developed early in their campaign to win the Cork Senior Football Championship.
The Blues hammered clubs from all across the county, with their most dogged result being a 1-10 to 0-02 victory over UCC in the quarter-finals.
This was all done with a team containing three veterans from their first-ever All-Ireland success in 1980.
Those players were John Cremin, Christy Ryan, and John Allen and their experience was complimented by the youth of then-Cork stars John Kerins, Paddy Hayes, and Michael Slocum.
This championship run was just five months before they helped their county beat Kerry by five points in the Munster final in Killarney and there was a genuine sense that Cork football onto something special, a football revolution that had the Barr’s at the heart of it.
Everything was going in the right direction until the Cork final, which saw St Finbarr’s lose by a point to Imokilly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It was a shock defeat and the Barr’s had to go on and represent their county in the Munster championship as Imokilly are a divisional side.
The Barrs took a month off and they entered the provincial arena with a game against Austin Stacks in Kerry in the semi-final stage of the competition.
They upset the odds and won by six points and Waterford’s Kilrossanty were hammered 2-15 to 1-05 in the final at Fraher Field.
This set up the meeting with Faughs in the All-Ireland semi-finals, and the Barrs escaped with a draw thanks to a last-second point from Michael Slocum.
He had the flu, and this ended up having no bearing on the actual game as the Barrs took control early on at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and they raised their first green flag of the game in the 9th minute through Michael Slocum.
This came from Declan O’Mahony getting around full-back Declan Loughman and passing to his team-mate in blue.
The ball was carried over the white line by the sheer force of the forward’s run and the Barrs gained an early lead O’Mahony’s unselfishness in front of the posts set up Christy Ryan to score the second goal in the 17th minute.
The Barrs forwards weren’t the only group delivering on the pitch. Their back line consisting of Michael Carey, Kevin Scanlon, and Bill O’Connell kept out everything that Faughs sent their way.
This collective effort made sure that none of the opposition forwards scored in the first half. Faughs managed just two scores in the opening 30 minutes, and they came from midfielder Paul Campbell and centre-back Eugene Hughes.
The Barrs, in comparison, tallied 2-4 by the time the whistle went. Michael Barry added another point to that lead after the break and the Barrs went nine clear.
The Ulster champions tried to get themselves back in the game by moving Eugene Hughes up to the forward line. The tinkering instantly paid off as Steven White rebounded off a save from John Kerins and that raised a green flag for Faughs.
The Barrs cushion had been cut to just three points and a safe passage that was once seemed assured to the All-Ireland final was over. When it mattered the most, Dermot Murphy failed to clear his lines and Declan O’Mahony drove in the Barrs' third goal.
This was said to be Faughs’ ‘undoing’ and a couple of late points from Eammon McEneanney did nothing as the Barrs held on to secure their place in the All-Ireland final.
St Finbarr’s went on to beat Connacht champions Clann nan Gael 0-10 to 0-7 in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
Once the celebrations were done, their quest to lift the Andy Merrigan Cup ended up becoming a white whale in Togher as they lost finals in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2009, 2010, and 2017.
The title most craved was finally secured in 2018 with a 3-14 to 2-14 victory over Duhallow.