Leading players from the St Finbarr’s and Castlehaven football camps have expressed their dislike for penalty shootouts and would much prefer if knockout championship games that finish level go to a replay.
The Barrs and the Haven meet at the semi-final stage of the Cork football championship for a third year running this Sunday, with the two previous instalments having been decided by penalty shootouts.
It was Castlehaven who prevailed after sudden death penalties in 2020, with the Barrs avenging that result 12 months later.
Speaking after last year’s semi-final shootout, and despite his team coming out on top, St Finbarr’s manager Paul O’Keeffe expressed deep opposition to county championship games being decided by penalties.
“It’s an awful way to bloody well end it,” O’Keeffe told this reporter.
O’Keeffe’s is a sentiment echoed by Barrs midfielder Eoin Comyns and Castlehaven full-back Rory Maguire. The latter was centrally involved in both the 2020 and 21 shootouts; Maguire’s converted penalty two years ago denied the Barrs victory and, in the process, forced sudden death, whereas his was the only penalty saved in 2021 as the Barrs won 5-4.
“It is not a great way to go out,” Maguire said of exiting on penalties.
“If there is time pressure, it has to finish on the day. But this year, you could make the argument that there is time to work with considering the county final is not until October 30, so a case could be made for having a replay if Sunday’s game finished level. If they could fit it in, a replay is probably the best alternative.
“There is huge pressure involved in penalties. There was immense pressure last year. The year before, there were no crowds and so we were in a bit of a bubble. But last year, with everyone shouting and roaring, it was a high-pressure environment where the stakes were high.”
The Barrs’ Eoin Comyns jokes that he’d be well down their list of penalty-takers, but he certainly doesn’t lack for conviction when giving his assessment on county semi-finals being determined by spot-kicks.
“It isn’t a fair way to end the game, especially the way the two games went the last two years and how close they were,” the midfielder stressed. “The games could have gone either way each year, and I thought it was a bit unfair the way they ended.
“Penalties is not something that is applicable to the game, it is something that’s more associated with the game of soccer. It is unfair, but you have to end it somehow, if games do have to be ended on the day.”
With the Barrs hurlers having already secured their place in the county final, Comyns insisted there was no pressure on the footballers to keep the double alive.
“We have our heads down concentrating on the next game, we’re not listening to any of that noise. It’s great for the hurlers to be in the county final, but this weekend, we’ll be concentrating on ourselves.”
They will, though, be trying to feed off the momentum generated by the hurlers last Sunday, especially with so many from that camp - including dual starters Jamie Burns, Billy Hennessy, Ben O’Connor, Ethan Twomey, and Brian Hayes - falling back in with the footballers this week.
“We’ve a huge crossover between the hurling and football, so last weekend’s win was huge for the club. There is a great buzz around the place and of course we’d be delighted to join the hurlers [in reaching a county final].
“[Management of the dual players] has run seamlessly this year. Obviously there are weeks where we might not have any of our hurlers and so we are missing a good chunk. In those weeks it is up to the lads who play just one code to drive it on so we get the best out of training, and we know then when the lads come back from the hurling that they will be in great shape. They bring back huge momentum too.”
Not since 1980 have the Barrs successfully defended the Andy Scannell Cup, and while the loss of Down import Conor McCrickard had the potential to weaken their attack, the addition of teenagers Ben O’Connor and Ethan Twomey has considerably strengthened their back-to-back bid.
“Ethan has been a revelation for us this year, Ben is unbelievable too. After the year we had last year, if you just keep the momentum going and keep improving as much as we can, that’s the ideal scenario, and that’s what the lads have done by coming in and joining the team seamlessly. Them coming in keeps everyone on their toes.”