St Finbarr’s are back in the big time - at long, long last.
Twenty-nine years on since their last Cork hurling final appearance, and having suffered nine semi-final defeats in the interim, the Barrs will seek to end the club’s longest ever drought in next month’s decider against city rivals the Rockies.
The October 16 final will be the first between the two since 1982, and coincidentally enough that is the year when last the Barrs secured a Cork double.
The club’s first semi-final win since their last all-conquering season in 1993 was born out of a dominant first 18 minutes, at the end of which they led 1-11 to 0-1 and also held a numerical advantage inside the whitewash after the incorrect sending off of Newtownshandrum’s Conor Twomey on 17 minutes.
14-man Newtown somehow got the margin back to five at the break, 1-13 to 0-11, but their comeback bid was dealt a fatal blow inside 24 seconds of the restart when Jack Cahalane fed Ben Cunningham for a second Barrs goal.
The tireless efforts of Jamie Coughlan and Cathal Naughton had the gap back to six, 2-15 to 0-15, on 40 minutes. That, however, was as close as they would come of their opponents in the second period.
There followed seven white flags without reply from Ger Cunningham’s charges, his son, Ben, the Cahalane brothers Conor and Jack, William Buckley, and Brian Hayes all on the mark during this latest spell of blue supremacy.
A difficult day for Newtownshandrum finished with a second sending off, corner-back Mattie Ryan seeing red on this occasion, and a saved Tim O’Mahony penalty.
The interval scoreline of 1-13 to 0-11 in the Barrs favour was scarcely believable in the context of the city men having led 1-11 to 0-1 after 18 minutes and their opponents having been reduced to 14 men one minute prior to that following a Conor Twomey challenge on Ben Cunningham close to the South Stand sideline.
Referee Colm Lyons hesitated not a second in showing Twomey a straight red card, but from this vantage point, the sending off was a wrong call.
The fear from a Newtownshandrum perspective was that their afternoon could get even uglier than it already was, given they were now a man down inside the whitewash and 13 down on the scoreboard, but to their absolute credit they mustered a response that saw them outscore their opponents by 0-10 to 0-2 from there to half-time.
Cormac O’Brien was responsible for their first point from play on 22 minutes and although that particular effort was immediately cancelled out by a superb Ben Cunningham point from the South Stand sideline, the men from North Cork then reeled off five-in-a-row through Cathal Naughton, Cormac O’Brien, Jamie Coughlan (0-2, one free), and Tim O’Mahony to close to six, 1-12 to 0-9.
And although they clipped the opening period’s last two points, through O’Mahony and Coughlan frees, to further narrow the margin to five, they’ll regret the three consecutive wides they registered just before this pair of white flags.
But impressive and all as the response of 14-man Newtown was, it still placed second to the absolutely electric opening produced by the Barrs.
Five up inside six minutes, Ethan Twomey supplied two of these early white flags and also won the free for Ben Cunningham’s first successful dead-ball effort of the day. The latter would finish the half with 0-6 beside his name, split evenly between play and frees.
Jamie Coughlan’s seventh minute free for Newtown’s opener was very much an outlier, all the action - and scores - playing out at the other end of the field.
Offering more than a glimpse of what they are capable of when they find rhythm, the Barrs struck for an unanswered 1-6 between the ninth and 18th minute to open up an unassailable 13-point lead.
The goal, which arrived on 14 minutes, was finished by Brian Hayes and had its roots in a Ben O’Connor block down on Cormac O’Brien.
Hayes and O’Connor will be back in action next weekend as the Barrs chase county final involvement on the double.
B Cunningham (1-10, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ‘65); B Hayes (1-4); C Cahalane (0-4); E Twomey (0-3); W Buckley (0-2); J Cahalane, S Cunningham (0-1 each).
J Coughlan (0-11, 0-8 frees, 0-1 ‘65); C Naughton (0-4); T O’Mahony (0-3, 0-2 frees); C O’Brien (0-2).
S Hurley; E Keane, J Burns, C Walsh; G O’Connor, D Cahalane, B Hennessy; B O’Connor, E Twomey; B Cunningham, C Cahalane, P Buggy; W Buckley, B Hayes, J Cahalane.
C Doolan for C Walsh, S Cunningham for J Cahalane (both 52); C Keane for Twomey (56); B O’Connell for O’Connor (59); C Barrett for D Cahalane (60).
J Bowles; C Twomey, P O’Sullivan, M Ryan; K O’Sullivan, T O’Mahony, J Herlihy; C Naughton, J Lane; C O’Brien, J Coughlan, D O’Connor; M Thompson, J Twomey, R Geary.
D Hawe for Lane (19); C Griffin for Geary (HT); S Griffin for J Twomey (36); P Noonan for O’Connor (50); M Bowles for M Thompson (55).