It could have been a different story if the Cork side had not been so wasteful when enjoying their best spell around the three-quarter stage, or if substitute Kyle Lynch had been luckier with a powerful ground shot deflected by a defender.
But despite missing Paul Galvin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Finuge were impressive. It took the Kerry champions some time to adjust to conditions before Flaherty got the opening score in the 13th minute. He added another within three minutes and just before John Griffin helped them to a three-point lead in the 19th minute, Paddy O’Shea brought off the first of two outstanding saves.
Flaherty fed Griffin on the left wing and when his angled shot came back off an upright, Michael Conway gained possession only to see O’Shea stop his close-range shot. Griffin and Conway were also prominent around this time while Paul Galvin’s brother Raymond exerted an influence out around midfield which was to see him make a vital contribution all through. The only negative was that poor finishing accounted for seven wides.
However, St Vincent’s had very few chances of scores, other than hitting two wides and several shots into goalkeeper Cillian Fitzmaurice’s hands. Improved play in defence saw them only concede one more score before the break, but it was a struggle to penetrate — waiting until the 29th minute for their first score, when Jonathan Buckley pointed a free earned by Cian Barry.
Then, two minutes into injury-time the industrious Derek O’Connor pointed another free, their mini-revival having been given impetus by the contribution of substitute Anthony Harte.
At the break, it was 0-4 to 0-2.
Boosted by a Tomás O’Connell score three minutes after the resumption, which came from an excellent move involving Jonathan Buckley, St Vincent’s lifted their game. And, O’Shea came to their aid again in the 34th minute, this time denying Flaherty. However, the crafty Finuge corner-forward was rewarded when he had the ball in the net in the 40th minute following a long ball from the wing by Pat Corridan which full-back Paul Aherne failed to hold.
Psychologically, it marked a decisive stage of the game for both teams. It gave Finuge added reassurance that they were moving into winning mode but sparked an even greater effort from the Cork city side.
But by the time they scored again (after 19 minutes), they had kicked five wides and as well as seeing 45th-minute substitute Kyle Lynch fail with their best chance of a goal over the hour, they also lost centre-back Kevin Goulding to a red card in the 55th minute. In the remaining time, they changed their approach, kicking less and adopting a running game which might have yielded a better return but for the stonewall defence put up by Finuge, with Trevor McKenna dominant at the edge of the square.
Constant pressure did yield a Jonathan Buckley score from a free in the 58th minute to leave just two points between the sides but, the Kerry side stayed in control and in injury time Flaherty scored again to bring the curtain down on a stirring individual and team display.
Scorers for Finuge: J Flaherty 1-3; M Conway and J Griffin 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Vincent’s: J Buckley (2f) and D O’Connor (2f) 0-2 each; T O’Connell 0-1.
FINUGE: Cillian Fitzmaurice; C. Allen (c), T. McKenna, D. McCarthy; Paudie Galvin, P. Corridan, Conor Fitzmaurice; J. McCarthy, M. Corridan; J. Corridan, J. Griffin, S. Power; J. Flaherty, M. Conway, R. Galvin.
ST. VINCENTS: P. O’Shea; A. O’Callaghan, P. Aherne, W. Murphy; C. Kenneally, K. Goulding, D. O’Regan; S. Ray, S. Buckley; J. Buckley (c), D. Duggan, T. O’Connell; C. Barry, A. Buckley, D. O’Connor.
Subs for Finuge: E Galvin for Power (38), R Heffernan for J Corridan (54).
Subs for St Vincent’s: A Harte for A. Buckley (25), K Lynch for S Buckley (45); S. Buckley for J Buckley (58).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).