St Finbarr’s and Duhallow to renew rivalry in much anticipated Cork SFC final

St Finbarr’s and Duhallow to renew rivalry in much anticipated Cork SFC final
Duhallow's Aidan Walsh bursts past Castlehaven's Brian Hurley during the Cork SFC semi final replay at Pairc Ui Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Just as they did in 1990 and 1991, St Finbarr’s and Duhallow, of course, will contest the Cork SFC final, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The Barr’s last won the title in 1985. Duhallow last lifted the Andy Scannell Cup in ’91, overcoming the Blues, for the second year on the spin, in the decider.

Since toppling Clonakilty in the ’85 showpiece, finals have not been kind to the men from Togher. They have won the Cork SFC eight times, but following that eighth success, St Finbarr’s have lost the last eight finals they contested.

Cruelly, they were beaten in four out of the five finals played from 1989 to 1993, inclusive, losing to Castlehaven (’89), the aforementioned reverses to Duhallow in ’90 and ’91 and they also succumbed to Nemo Rangers in the ’93 decider.

Additionally, the Blues lost back-to-back finals in 2009 and 2010 to Clon and Nemo respectively.

Unfortunately for the Barr’s, that is a bad habit, historically, losing finals in sequences.

Nemo, obviously, also defeated Ray Keane’s outfit in last year’s final, so will St Finbarr’s play to historical form and lose again next Sunday?

The distant past, of course, means nothing to this group of players. However, eventually bowing to Nemo after a replay last year will be in the back of their minds. That is their history. Yet, they have commendably given themselves an opportunity to atone for that replayed day at the office.

And, given the opposition on this occasion, they also have the chance to put an extra smile on the faces of those that were involved in ’90 and ’91, by capturing this title against Pádraig Kearns’ divisional charges, next Sunday.

The question is, will they? Can the Barr’s get over the line, this time?

Well, where the Blues probably have one advantage is in the fact Sunday represents Duhallow’s fourth weekend in a row in championship action.

Then, though, others will argue that might be of benefit to a divisional side, playing regularly together at a high level. However, the Duhallow bodies must surely be a little weary, at least.

The three semi-final encounters they tackled against Castlehaven will have had an impact on them, physically. Furthermore, there also could be some mental fatigue for Kearns and his management team to be mindful of as they prepare the panel for the final.

In saying that, Duhallow motored extremely well last Saturday night in the second semi-final replay.

Jerry O’Connor’s major, Duhallow’s third, in their 3-13 to 0-16 triumph over the Haven essentially sealed the deal for Kearns’ unit as it ensured they then led 3-7 to 0-7 two minutes into the second half.

However, it was actually the first and second goals last Saturday night, particularly their second, plundered by the superb Séamus Hickey, which created their path to this final.

Keane and the Barr’s will also now be conscious of the realisation that Duhallow have raised five green flags in their last two outings.

St Finbarrs Ian Maguire is tackled by Carbery Rangers Alan Jennings during the Cork SFC semi final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarrs Ian Maguire is tackled by Carbery Rangers Alan Jennings during the Cork SFC semi final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Blues, too, have been finding the net in their campaign with six goals registered in their four championship clashes including nailing three against Mallow in the third round.

Creating and executing goalscoring opportunities will be decisive when the sides meet in the Páirc as neither of the finalists operate with an overly-defensive gameplan.

In fact, if the ground is dry next Sunday, we could witness a cracking match because both teams are programmed to attack.

Yet, the Barr’s will appreciate that if they rely too much on Steven Sherlock again, they might not post the winning total required.

Duhallow have proven themselves capable of distributing the scoring burden. Aside from the ever-consistent Donncha O’Connor, the likes of Eoghan McSweeney, Michael Vaughan and, especially, Hickey were exceptional in the series of games against the Haven.

As a matter of fact, Keane should understand that he will have to concoct a plan to curb Hickey. The inside forward from Rockchapel pilfered 0-3, 0-2 and 1-1, all from play, in the three semi-final matches. Plus, his ability to slickly develop incisive moves could really hurt St Finbarr’s. He has the touch of an Ian Burke from Corofin about him. Thing is, Hickey is even more physically imposing than Burke is.

While the majority of people will point to Donncha O’Connor as being Duhallow’s main go-to attacker, it would be naïve of the Barr’s to neglect Hickey when it comes to devising their rearguard plan of action.

Keane, though, would hardly be unaware of Hickey’s capacity to hurt his side, anyway.

To a lesser extent, the Blues will have to counter wing-backs Lorcán O’Neill and Lorcán McLoughlin.

The latter gets on a high percentage of ball in and around Duhallow’s half-back line, sweeping across that general zone to serious effect.

McLoughlin, in fact, is often the starting point of attacks and counter-attacks for Kearns’ charges with simple passes into the middle sector of the field.

Then again, the Haven tended to sit off Duhallow, at times, in their trilogy, allowing O’Neill and McLoughlin to step forward while in possession.

The Barr’s might opt to try and force turnovers high up the pitch as their freshness could be a factor, thus rendering Duhallow’s wing-backs less impactful, in the subtle manner that they have been.

You would imagine St Finbarr’s will operate with ravenous intensity in the opening 20 minutes so as to exploit Duhallow’s possible fatigue.

If they achieve that, and convert their possessions in this period into scores, it may be sufficient to see them crowned champions, once more.

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