St Finbarr's 2-14 Éire Óg 0-12
A clinical St Finbarr’s were handed the perfect Christmas present when overcoming Clare champions Éire Óg to advance to their first Munster senior club football final since 1986 in front of 1,432 in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday afternoon.
The Cork dual giants, who remain the only club in the country to win All-Ireland titles in both hurling and football, produced a ruthless display of scoring and spoiling to keep their Ennis visitors at bay for the majority of the contest.
Two first-half goals from Down import Conor McCrickard were pivotal in putting clear daylight between the sides by the break as the Barrs eventually carved out a ten-point cushion at the start of the second period.
Led by a lethal inside trio of McCrickard (2-01), chief marksman Steven Sherlock (0-09) and Cillian Myers-Murray (0-03) who combined for all but one point of their side’s tally, St Finbarr’s also only kicked one single wide over the entire hour.
The first-half entertainment was blemished by a black card for either side, with a fourth-minute sin bin for Clare hurler David Reidy coming amidst a positive start for Éire Óg. They led by 0-03 to 0-02 before St Finbarr’s grabbed the opening goal against the run of play in the 12th minute.
It stemmed from a quick free from Steven Sherlock that caught the visiting defence napping as McCrickard ghosted in to billow the net at 1-02 to 0-03 by the water break.
A black card for Cork captain Ian Maguire was met by a stern resistance from the numerically challenged Barrs who outscored their opponents by 1-03 to 0-01 in that ten minute period, including a second close-range goal for McCrickard on their way to a 2-07 to 0-04 interval cushion.
Indeed, the Clare champions would fall ten behind before finally circling the wagons as inspired by a brace of points from centre-back Conall Ó hAiniféin, Éire Óg gathered momentum at the right time to slash the arrears to just four entering the final ten minutes at 2-10 to 0-12.
However, amidst the drama of the trading of two more black cards and an injury-time sending off of Éire Óg midfielder Darren O’Neill, St Finbarr’s got back on track with the last four points, fittingly all from the well-worn boot of scorer-in-chief Sherlock to cement their place in the Munster final against Kerry’s Austin Stacks in mid-January.
St Finbarr’s: John Kerins; Billy Hennessy, Sam Ryan, Alan O’Connor; Colin Lyons, Jamie Burns, Colm Scully; Ian Maguire, Eoin Comyns; Denis O’Brien (0-01), Michael Shields, Enda Dennehy; Cillian Myers-Murray (0-03), Conor McCrickard (2-01), Steven Sherlock (0-09, 0-06f, 0-01m).
Subs: Eoin McGreevey for Shields (40), Bill O’Connell for Dennehy (47), Adam Lyne for O’Brien (47), Luke Hannigan for Lyons (53), Cian Walsh for Myers-Murray (60)
Éire Óg: Nathan Murray; Manus Doherty, Aaron Fitzgerald, Ronan Lanigan; Ciaran Russell, Conall Ó hAiniféin (0-02), Einne O’Connor; Darren O’Neill (0-01), David McNamara; Niall McMahon, David Reidy, Aidan McGrath; Mark McInerney (0-03), Gavin Cooney (0-04, 0-02f) Philip Talty (0-01).
Subs: Ikem Ugwueru for McGrath (25), Dara Walsh for Reidy (39), Eimhin Courtney (0-01) for McMahon (43), Tadhg Connellan for McInerney (60), Darren O’Brien for Talty (60)
Referee: Brendan Griffin (Kerry)