Having seen their charges five points behind and outplayed by a lively and tuned in St. Catherine’s in the opening 30 minutes, drastic action was required.
And whatever wise old heads Jimmy Barry Murphy, Charlie McCarthy and company concocted in the dressing room at half-time, it worked the oracle - a much more positive Barr’s side powering past the Ballynoe men with clinical efficiency in the second-half.
Splendid goals from Cathal McCarthy and Kevin Murray laid the foundation for a workmanlike victory, holding St. Catherine’s to just two Johnny Sheehan frees in the second-half. It may not have been earth moving stuff, but there was pride and passion in the Blues’ play in those 30 minutes, with Ronan Curran the main orchestrator.
A happy Barry Murphy was relieved afterwards: “We were jittery in the first–half, awful really. We needed to tighten up and lift it and quickly. But I was delighted with the way the players responded. We know we have lots of work do, but the lads showed what they are capable of.”
No doubt St. Catherine’s will be disappointed — now facing a tilt with Cloyne-Killeagh to stay in the championship. The zip went out of their play after the break and not even the advent of Johnny Sheehan and Kieran Morrison could help their cause.
They had their chances — Morrison going agonisingly close in the final quarter when a goal was badly needed. But they lacked bite up front and it proved their downfall.
They opened brilliantly though, Shane Kearney ghosting through for a fine goal after only two minutes. However, it was level pegging after the opening quarter, 1-1 to 0-4, Kevin Murray keeping the Barr’s in the game from frees.
It got even better for St. Catherine’s in the 18th minute when Paul O’Connell was upended and Padraig Cotter fired home the penalty to put them 2-2 to 0-4 clear. And when Junior Sheehan and Brian Hughes tacked on points for a 2-4 to 0-5 interval lead the Barr’s were in trouble, especially with Mike and Shane Fitzgerald in top form in defence and Pádraig Cotter working tirelessly at midfield.
But with Brian O’Driscoll lifting his game at midfield, Philip O’Brien thundering into the fray and Curran reigning supreme, the dangerous Barr’s front line of McCarthy, Murray and Robert O’Mahony saw much more of the ball. And they used it tellingly.
After McCarthy and O’Mahony fired over lovely points, McCarthy was in for their first goal in the 38th minute after a superb pass from O’Driscoll. And, six minutes later, they had a peach of a second — Curran to O’Mahony to Murray who batted the ball home as the Barr’s raced into a 2-9 to 2-4 lead after the third quarter. St. Catherine’s had plenty of chances — Shane Cotter missed a couple of frees and Richard O’Connell did no better. All they could muster was two Johnny Sheehan frees as O’Driscoll and Murray pointed the Barr’s on their merry way.
: St. Finbarr’s: K. Murray 1-6 (0-6 frees), C. McCarthy 1-2, R. O’Mahony, B. O’Driscoll (0-1 ‘65) 0-2 each, M. Ryan 0-1. St. Catherine’s: S. Kearney, P. Cotter (pen) 1-0 each, S. Cotter (frees), J. Sheehan (frees) 0-2 each, Junior Sheehan, B. Hogan 0-1 each.
: S. Barry; P. Buckley, E. Burke, R. McCarthy; E. P. O’Callaghan, R. Curran, P. O’Brien; A. Fitzpatrick, B. O’Driscoll; G. McCarthy, M. Ryan, D. O’Regan; C. McCarthy, K. Murray, R. O’Mahony.
: C. Duffy for O’Regan.
: M. Walsh; C. Ahern, M. Fitzgerald, E. Kenneally; C. Hogan, S. Fitzgerald, P. O’Neill; P. Cotter, Junior Sheehan; P. O’Connell, R. O’Connell, S. Cotter; S. Kearney, M. O’Keeffe, B. Hogan.
: Johnny Sheehan for Junior Sheehan, K. Morrison for S. Cotter.
: D. Farrell (Mitchelstown).