The Cork full-back received a four week suspension along with Dublin’s Philip McMahon, for an incident in the tunnel at half-time in the Allianz Football League final which was alleged to have “brought the game into disrepute.”
Last week McMahon’s appeal cleared him to play in the Dublin championship and, on Saturday evening, Croke Park stuck with the precedent and cleared Shields for yesterday’s Cork SFC opener.
“It was a kind of a distraction,” Barrs’ manager, Bill O’Connell admitted. “Obviously having his presence on the field was a relief because he is a great player. The other guy who got two really good scores was Ronan Curran who hasn’t played football for two or three years. He was immense when we needed him.”
And scores were at a premium on a day when a gale played havoc with shooting for both sides; St. Finbarr’s shot 13 wides to seven for Newcestown.
Shields, who stepped in for centre-back, Michael Ryan, made an early impact, providing the clearance that resulted in a free taken by Roy Leahy to Colin O’Sullivan who opened the scoring inside two minutes.
But the early part of the game was dominated by the Keane brothers Carthach, and Fionn, at midfield for Newcestown. Fionn fielded some magnificent ball and set up a succession of movements that put the St. Finbarr’s defence under pressure. But Shields and company held their ground and gave little away.
Out the field, however, the city side struggled with the elements and against a Newcestown defence in mean mood. The city side were forced into shooting from distance, a ploy that resulted in eight first half wides.
Newcestown drew level at six points apiece by the break and appeared all set for a dramatic win. But on the resumption St. Finbarr’s, with Colin Lyons and substitute Michael Ryan now at midfield, began to put some daylight between the sides. Scores from Cathal McCarthy, Robert O’Mahony, Roy Leahy (free) and a Ronan Curran long range free had them four points clear.
Newcestown came storming back as efforts from Tadhg Twomey (‘45’), Barry Horgan and Darren Heffernan set up a nailbiting finish. A great point from Fionn Keane cut the arrears to a point and Newcestown looked set to equalise when Barry Horgan stepped up to a free awarded for a foul on Tadhg Twomey. However the wind caught Horgan’s effort and St Finbarr’s cleared their lines with Robert O’Mahony firing over a fine effort to put his side two points clear two minutes into injury time. A relieved O’Connell said: “At the end of the day what we were hoping to do was come down here and win and then get out of here because there is a long summer ahead.”
Scorers for St. Finbarr’s: R. O’Mahony 0-5, C. O’Sullivan 0-3, R. Curran 0-2, R. Leahy 0-2 (frees) and C. McCarthy 0-1.
Scorers for Newcestown: B. Horgan (0-1 free) and T. Twomey (0-1 free) 0-3 each, E. Kelly, D. Twomey, H. Curran, D. Heffernan and F. Keane 0-1 each.
ST. FINBARR’S: D. Haines; P. Kennedy, R. O’Dwyer, G. O’Connor; C. Lyons, M. Shields, N. Horgan; I. Leahy, P. Wiley; C. O’Sullivan, R. Leahy, R. O’Mahony; C. McCarthy, R. Curran, J. O’Donoghue.
Subs: M. Ryan for I. Leahy (H.T.), D. O’Leary for R. Leahy (47), J. Fitzpatrick for J. O’Donoghue (55).
NEWCESTOWN: P. White; G. O’Rourke, N. O’Sullivan, J. Crowley; B. O’Mahony, E. Kelly, T. Ryan; C. Keane, F. Keane; D. Twomey, H. Curran, D. Heffernan; B. Horgan, T. Twomey, M. Kelly.
Subs: S. Ryan for M. Kelly (35), G. O’Driscoll for T. Ryan (51), J. Desmond for B. O’Mahony (55).
Referee: Niall Barrett (Carrigtwohill).