If the bit of class is the essential ingredient of champions, a sound work ethic is the foundation stone.
As this St Finbarr’s side has improved year-on-year, inch by inch, the over-riding takeaway from each of their championship outings has been a group with a ravenous appetite for graft.
Once again today, as they ended a haunting streak of eight Cork SFC final losses in succession, they laid that foundation stone with gusto, not leading Duhallow until the 35th minute of a final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh played in front of 6,511 paying patrons.
Thereafter, though, they were the ones with the poise and the sense of purpose to their play, as the famed Togher outfit outlasted the collaboration from north west Cork in what proved a thrilling final.
Stephen Sherlock is their William Tell. He was unerring from frees and slid home the Barrs first goal in a haul of 1-8.
Easy to forget at times he is still only 23.
“St Finbarr’s are an institution in Cork GAA,” Cork chair Tracey Kennedy said afterwards, but Duhallow were paying little regard to heritage in the opening quarter. The pass of the first half from Aidan Walsh triggered the move which led to Seamus Hickey scoring the division’s first goal. An Eoghan McSweeney point off the outside of his right point offered a suggestion of their confidence in the early stages. The Barrs were hanging on.
Sherlock’s goal, teed up by the poised Comyn, was timely but within four minutes Duhallow were back in control, Seamus Hickey’s attempt for goal ‘leg blocked’ by Dylan Quinn. The definition of a leg block is vague – this one looked more like a block down – by referee David Murnane awarded the penalty which Donncha O’Connor converted. 2-4 to 1-3 for Duhallow.
By half time the division’s lead was still three points (2-7 to 1-7) but they met a second-half challenge from Les Bleus which betrayed none of the anxieties associated with their recent appearances in finals.
Indeed, continuing the spirit of openness and free space to run into in this final, Barr’s defender Colm Lyons slalomed too easily through the middle in the opening minute of the second half for the equalising goal. 2-7 each, and there was the real sense at that moment that the Cork county final had undergone a critical transformation.
Now the mistakes were coming from Duhallow. A defensive mix-up should have given Barrs another goal from Colm Keane but he pointed.
The significance was that it edged Barrs ahead for the first time. They would not be led again.
Duhallow started looking frayed at the edges but though they would leak two more points, a Donncha O’Connor free in the 49th minute had them level again at 2-11 each.
Two unwise kickout choices from Patrick Doyle gave the Barrs the chance to stamp their authority.
They would not be found wanting.
First Eoghan Finn – what an impact sub he’s been this campaign – pounced for a goal, and from the next play, Enda Dennehy made it a four-point game.
Colm Barrett came in and pointed, and Sherlock had a chance of his second goal, but he was brilliantly foiled by Duhallow keeper Doyle. However, the Barr’s would not be.
“If I asked them to train seven days a week, they would,” said manager Ray Keane afterwards. “They’re a very honest, committed group of lads.”
Blue collar in every sense.
Scorers for St Finbarr’s: S Sherlock (1-8, 8 frees), E Finn (1-1), C Lyons (1-0), C Dennehy, E Dennehy, D O’Brien, C Keane, C Barrett (0-1 each).
Scorers for Duhallow: D O’Connor (1-5, 1-0 pen, 3 frees), J O’Connor (0-3, 2 frees), S Hickey (1-0), E. McSweeney (0-2), P.Walsh, A. Walsh, A. O’Connor, K Crowley (0-1 each)
ST FINBARR’S: J Kerins; C Dennehy, J Burns, D Quinn; C Lyons, A O’Connor, C Scully; I Maguire, E Comyns; D O’Brien, M Shields, E Dennehy; C Keane, E McGreevey, S Sherlock.
Subs for St Finbarr’s: G O’Connor for Burns (half-time), E Finn for Keane (41), C Barrett for McGreevey (47), R O’Dwyer for Quinn (49), R O’Mahony for E Dennehy (60+1)
DUHALLOW: P Doyle (Knocknagree); B Daly (Newmarket), J McLoughlin (Kanturk), K Crowley (Millstreet); L O’Neill (Kanturk), K. Buckley (Knocknagree), L McLoughlin (Kanturk); P Walsh (Kanturk), A. Walsh (Kanturk); F O’Connor (Knocknagree), D O’Connor (Ballydesmond), E McSweeney (Knocknagree); J O’Connor (Boherbue), S Hickey (Rockchapel), M Vaughan (Millstreet).
Subs for Duhallow: A O’Connor (Knocknagree) for Vaughan (29), K Cremin (Boherbue) for F O’Connor (41), D Moynihan (Ballydesmond) for McSweeney (57),
Referee: D Murnane (Macroom).