Without a county junior crown since 1963, Millstreet’s title famine looked to extend another year as they trailed by five points, 1-6 to 0-4, after a smart score by St Finbarr’s forward Jim O’Donoghue in the 44th minute.
The Togher outfit’s second team looked to have the edge, as Millstreet’s attacks came up short too often.
But then a goal from sub Cathal Crowley provided oxygen for the fightback, and the closing stages brought cheer after cheer from the sizeable contingent from the town.
When Michael Murphy kicked his second point in injury time, they led by 1-9 to 1-7, and could even afford the concession of a later effort from the Barr’s.
The city side had been left reeling by the game’s redirection but they will know that, on another night, the outcome would have been sealed in their favour long before the end, such was the high number of chances created.
They finished with 14 wides, on a night when their general play was most impressive, especially in the first half as they created chance after chance.
Both sides were sloppy in that first half, as evidenced by the 0-2 each scoreline as the game moved into the second minute of injury-time. Millstreet’s points had come in the 11th and 13th minutes from Kevin Crowley and Tadhg Collins respectively but for the majority they were on the back foot. With Eoin Comyns at midfield and attackers Eoghan Finn and O’Donoghue showing well, the Barr’s looked more dangerous. A foul on Comyns in the large rectangle by full-back Alan Murphy — who was black-carded — gave them a chance to go in with a tangible advantage.
From the penalty spot, Paul Harte drilled his shot low past Denny Twomey and when Finn scored two points in quick succession at the start of the second half, the Barr’s jumped 1-4 to 0-2 clear.
With the next four points shared, it wasn’t quite a procession from the Barr’s but they weren’t looking like being denied.
Then, Millstreet finally clicked. Michael Murphy, Tadhg Collins and Mark Collins combined to work the ball to sub Cathal Crowley. His shot took a deflection off full-back Paul Kennedy and looped past Shane Sherlock.
Now, the game was on.
It didn’t initially seem to be a huge setback to the Barr’s as Mark Russell set up sub Cian Madden for a point in response, but then Millstreet took a firm hold on proceedings around the middle.
Cathal Crowley followed his goal with a point before James Broxton nailed a long-range effort and then another sub, Denis Kiely, tied the game for the first time since late in the first half.
Momentum was Millstreet’s now, but then their accuracy went awry as they missed a series of chances.
Eventually, Michael Murphy put them in front after he linked with Ellis and, when the Barr’s missed an equalising opportunity, he repeated the trick deep in injury time. Euphoria was close at hand for the Millstreet fans now. Harte’s late free cut the gap, but the Barr’s wouldn’t find an equaliser.
Scorers for Millstreet: C Crowley 1-1, M Vaughan, M Murphy 0-2 each, J Broxton, T Collins, K Crowley, D Kiely 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Finbarr’s: P Harte 1-1 (1-0 penalty, one free), E Finn 0-2, E Comyns, D O’Brien, C Madden, C McCarthy, J O’Donoghue 0-1 each.
MILLSTREET: D Twomey; L Murphy, A Murphy, B O’Connor; D O’Riordan, K Crowley, P Sheehan; M Ellis, P Coleman; O Murphy, M Murphy, J Broxton; T Collins, M Vaughan, B Sheehan.
Subs: D McCall for Crowley (29-30, blood), P Randles for A Murphy (30, black card), C Crowley for B Sheehan (38), McCaul for O’Riordan (39), D Kiely for O Murphy (42).
ST FINBARR’S: S Sherlock; C Power, P Kennedy, M Russell; L Arslan, C Holland, A Lyne; E Comyns, J O’Donoghue; D O’Brien, C McCarthy, P Murphy; R Leahy, E Finn, P Harte.
Subs: D Comyns for Leahy (30, black card), C Madden for O’Brien (37), C Breathnach for Arslan (56), C Keane for McCarthy (58).
Referee: M Collins (Clonakilty).