Barrs will have to get over Nemo once and for all to seal legacy  

A familiar foe awaits in an all-city football final on Leeside. 
Barrs will have to get over Nemo once and for all to seal legacy  

NEXT GENERATION: Nemo Rangers supporters celebrate after defeating Ballincollig.

A second all-city Cork final, albeit the relationship between the two football participants is more modern-day than rooted in any glorious past.

The Barrs versus Nemo: a county final to settle supremacy rights on Leeside.

We’re framing the October 30 decider in that light because for the last five years, the Andy Scannell Cup has not broken a single sweat with the short spins it has been making on county final Sunday.

If not being marched up through Barrack Street and the Bandon Road on its way to the Barrs clubhouse in Togher, as was the case last year and in 2018, it’s been ferried along the South Douglas Road and into the familiar environs of Nemo HQ in Trabeg, as happened in 2017, 19, and after the delayed 2020 decider.

Only one of those finals brought the pair together, Nemo edging the 2017 decider after a replay. And while the current Barrs crop is much changed and of a much younger vintage than the 2017 class - there’s a crossover of only six starters between the respective teams - an obvious fact remains; the Barrs have failed to beat Nemo on either county final day or at an earlier juncture in the championship since returning to power at the end of the last decade.

It’s an ink spill on their copybook there’s no getting away from.

Along with the aforementioned 2017 decider, there was the 2019 quarter-final when, in horrible conditions, Nemo comfortably ended the reign of their city neighbours.

So, while they can never have taken from them their success in ending the club’s 33-year wait for Cork football honours in 2018, nor their success in backing up that win last November, the Barrs players know themselves that to truly cement their legacy they must finally down the black and green on the day it matters most.

Manage that and they’ll be the first Barrs team to ever conquer Nemo on county final day. They’ll also be the first Barrs team in 42 years to string together back-to-back Cork football titles.

That 1980 season is of further significance as it was the first time St Finbarr’s achieved a Cork double. The hope out in Togher is that victory in four weeks’ time will deliver the club a third such feat.

But before we lose ourselves in talk of a Blue double, it is worth pointing out that yesterday’s win, following as it did the hurlers’ victory over Newtownshandrum the weekend before last, has shifted to eight the number of seasons the club has been involved in both county senior finals.

Those years, for the GAA anoraks, are 1965, 79, 80, 82, 84, 90, 93, and 2022.

Brian Hayes is one of the five dual players on both Barrs teams. He set the tone for this latest Barrs-Haven semi-final installment when rising highest above hurling teammate and Castlehaven defender Damien Cahalane to fetch a mark - that he duly converted - after only seven seconds.

Fifty-six minutes later, Hayes settled this semi-final as a contest when, after Ian Maguire picked out his latest gallop through the middle, he thumped the ball to the Haven net.

In between, we were treated for the third year running to a semi-final that had as much quality as it had entertainment.

In total, the lead changed hands nine times, while we were level on 12 occasions. One of those occasions was the half-time break, although how the sides were deadlocked at the interval was a crime fiction mystery as the Barrs left five goal chances behind them.

The sight of manager Paul O’Keeffe firing his baseball cap to the ground spoke for the collective blues frustration.

Steven Sherlock was among those guilty of not taking the green flag opening that fell their way. Of course, the 25-year-old did make amends when ending their litany of missed goal chances on 47 minutes.

The assist for his goal merits mention for the fact that it was laid on by Colm Scully. Outside of Sherlock, no Barrs player did as much good with as much possession as the half-back. He, along with Sam Ryan, was the pick of the winning rearguard.

Back to the man of the match, his 1-6 tally matching Luke Connolly’s haul in the first of the double-header.

Connolly’s 1-6 offered a reminder to the Cork management of what the 29-year-old brings to the table, while Nemo’s performance on the whole was a timely reminder of what they remain capable of when not suffocated half to the death by a West Cork blanket.

We don’t want to stray into lazy analysis here, but it’s hard to envisage a set of Nemo forwards leaving behind the six goals their final opponents succeeded in doing.

Before we finish, a hat-tip to Castlehaven for their holding to account - not only yesterday but the past four years - of the two standard-bearers. It’s no consolation, we know that, but that doesn’t mean it should go unsaid.

So, a Barrs-Rockies hurling final, followed by a Barrs-Nemo football final. Aristocrat versus aristocrat versus aristocrat. Neighbour versus neighbour versus neighbour. Cork county final month looks unlikely to disappoint.

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