Brilliant Barr’s put up ring of blue steel

With 26 county senior championships wins between them, you can count on near city neighbours Nemo Rangers and St Finbarr’s producing pretty fierce rivalry.

True, the Trabeg side have had the Indian sign on the Togher outfit for a quite a while — not since 1989 have the Barr’s beaten them in the championship — but at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday, in this fourth round clash, Nemo ran into a wall of blue steel and were beaten all over the park.

No wonder Barr’s selector Bill O’Connell was ecstatic: “They’re the team to beat, aren’t they, the kingpin really of Cork football.

“We knew we had to up the intensity big time tonight all over the park. We haven’t been going that great in the league, so we told our fellows to go out and lift it and every one of them responded.”

No arguments there.

Right from the whistle, St Finbarr’s had the bit between their teeth and their formation was spot on. Jamie Burns had a fine match on Luke Connolly, Michael Shields on Barry O’Driscoll, Colin Lyons on Kerrigan and Alan O’Connor on James Masters. All four defenders won their battles, Nemo managing just four points from play over the hour.

And, up front, the Barr’s showed they have some real quality, with Jason Sexton, back after a cruciate injury, and Robert O’Mahony, in particular, sparkling, Sexton firing in 2-4 (2-1 from play).

And with Ronan Curran running the show between midfield and the 40, Nemo looked a bemused outfit on a night nothing went right for them.

It might have been different though had Kerrigan and O’Driscoll not missed gilt edged goal chances – they did get points — in the 22nd and 25th minutes after fine work by Masters. Thereafter, the Barr’s controlled the contest and, at times, played some sublime football.

Nothing between the sides in the opening quarter, level three times at 0-3 apiece, Connolly kicking one huge free for Nemo and O’Mahony, who was really testing Stephen Cronin before the youngster was switched, getting the pick of the points.

Then the opening Barr’s goal in the 16th minute, Sexton’s high delivery not dealt with by the jittery Nemo defence and Sexton was in like a shot to gleefully finish to the net. The Barrs’ were on fire now, Curran masterful, Sexton showing his value by kicking a magnificent free from the right touchline.

Nemo’s two glaring goal misses followed and, to make matters even worse, Ian Leahy began to belt over frees from the left hand side. Then, the Barrs’s second goal in the 29th minute – the evergreen Jim O’Donoghue putting Eoghan Finn in space and he set up Sexton for his second goal to give his side a 2-6 to 0-5 lead at the break.

Amazingly, Nemo had now conceded 10 goals in their four championship outings

To say they were in trouble would be an understatement, their much vaunted forward line completely subdued, a shaky defence under constant pressure and Michael Dorgan and Dylan Mehigan losing the midfield battle to Leahy and Pa Wiley.

Nemo did improve the midfield sector in the second-half, Peter Morgan joining Mehigan. It was a successful switch, though up front they could never unhinge a no-nonsense Barrs’s defence who simply refused to yield.

Sexton and Burns fired over super points after the interval to add to Nemo’s woes, both inside five minutes, and although the Barr’s were to score just one more point for the rest of the game – a Sexton free in the 38th minute – Nemo simply weren’t ruthless enough to upset their neighbours, missing far too many chances with sloppy finishing.

After corner-back Burns got that eighth St Finbarr’s point in the 35th minute, Nemo surprisingly substituted Connolly, bringing in David Niblock, although he did improve their cause around midfield. Still Connolly’s presence could surely have been put to better use.

Leading 2-9 to 0-8 after Kerrigan and O’Driscoll with another free had pointed for Nemo, the Barr’s were well in control, a badly needed Nemo goal never looking like materialising. But they battled away, as Nemo always do, two more O’Driscoll pointed frees and one from play by Kerrigan eating into the Barrs’s lead.

But there was only going to be one winner, the Blues very impressive on the night, and they now await a quarter-final meeting with either Newcestown or their conquerors of last year, Castlehaven

Scorers for St Finbarr’s: J Sexton 2-4 (3fs), I Leahy 0-3 (1f), R O’Mahony and J Burns 0-1 each.

Scorers for Nemo Rangers: B O’Driscoll 0-6 (4fs), L Connolly 0-3fs, J Kerrigan and A Cronin Snr 0-1 each.

ST FINBARR’S: D Murphy; A O’Connor, R O’Dwyer, J Burns; C Lyons, M Shields, G O’Connor; I Leahy, P Wiley; J O’Donoghue, R, Curran, E Finn; R O’Mahony, J Sexton, C McCarthy.

Subs: C Madden for McCarthy (15), I Maguire for Madden (46), D O’Brien for Wiley (59).

NEMO RANGERS: D Farry; K Fulignati, A O’Reilly, S Cronin; C O’Brien, P Morgan, P Hogan; M Dorgan, D Mehigan; B O’Driscoll, A Cronin Jnr, P Kerrigan; J Masters, L Connolly, A Cronin Snr.

Subs: D Niblock for Connolly (36), A O’Donovan for Mehigan (46), W Morgan for Masters (46), D Kearney for O’Reilly (52).

Referee: M Collins (Clonakilty).

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