A higher Barr for Crokes

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - SPORT - BY PAUL BREN­NAN


Dr Crokes v St Fin­barrs (Cork)

Sun­day, Novem­ber 11 Lewis Road, Kil­lar­ney at 1.30pm Ref: Derek O’Ma­honey (Tip­per­ary)

HAV­ING eas­ily ne­go­ti­ated a quar­ter-fi­nal win over Moyle Rovers last week­end the ex­pec­ta­tion is that Dr Crokes will face a con­sid­er­ably tougher ex­am­i­na­tion next Sun­day from the Cork cham­pi­ons St Fin­barrs, but will that re­ally be the case?

That last week’s Cork county cham­pi­onship ti­tle was the Togher club’s first since 1985 would sug­gest that The Barrs haven’t been much of a force in Cork foot­ball for the past three decades, but los­ing eight county fi­nals - in­clud­ing 2017 - would sug­gest the city-based club has never been too far off the top rung of club foot­ball in the Rebel county.

Cer­tainly last year’s fi­nal loss to Nemo Rangers, af­ter a re­play, was at first a tough ex­pe­ri­ence and then a re-af­firm­ing one, and given that Nemo were the team to re­lieve Dr Crokes of their provin­cial and All-Ire­land ti­tles 12 months ago, St Fin­barrs will take plenty of en­cour­age­ment from that.

It prob­a­bly did St Fin­barrs no harm that they met a Duhal­low team in last week’s Cork fi­nal that had played three re­ally tough semi-fi­nals against Castle­haven, but they still only got over the line by a goal, 3-14 to 2-14.

Of course, most, if not all, of what has gone be­fore will be fairly ir­rel­e­vant come Sun­day in Lewis Road, and in tak­ing this semi-fi­nal on its mer­its one has to fancy the home side to win.

The fort­night break be­tween win­ning that first county ti­tle in 33 years and Sun­day’s provin­cial out­ing can only help St Fin­barrs, even though the tough­est part of Crokes game against Moyle Rovers last Sun­day was the two-hour coach trip to Ardfinnan.

Mike Moloney will be as­sessed this week af­ter com­ing off early last Sun­day with an in­jury, but if he doesn’t re­cover in time Alan O’Sul­li­van can come into the de­fence with a lit­tle reshuf­fling with the per­son­nel at the back.

Since their shaky start against St Kier­ans and their 10-minute melt­down against Kerins O’Rahillys (in Round 2) the Crokes de­fence has tight­ened up con­sid­er­ably, and there is a far more co­he­sive and pur­pose­ful look about them de­fen­sively than was the case two months ago.

It’s fur­ther for­ward where Crokes con­tinue to look men­ac­ing, from the Buck­ley-Casey axis at mid­field, right through to the two break­out for­wards of the au­tumn, David Shaw and Tony Bros­nan.

Around them, vet­er­ans Brian Looney and Kieran O’Leary are still pro­duc­ing some of the best foot­ball of their ca­reers, while Micheal Burns and Gavin O’Shea bring their own qual­i­ties to bear on an at­tack that Colm Cooper is find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to break back into.

Sim­ply put, St Fin­barrs have noth­ing of the in­di­vid­ual qual­ity that the Kerry cham­pi­ons have. Their most recog­nis­able player is mid­fielder Ian Maguire - he of the pulled up stripped socks when play­ing mid­field with the Cork se­niors - and af­ter that it’s 32-year old Michael Shields, the former Cork de­fender who wore no.11 in the recent county fi­nal win over Duhal­low.

Through the Cork cham­pi­onship the Barrs put up scores of 1-17 (v Car­ri­ga­line), 3-11 (v Mal­low), 2-8 (v Dou­glas) and 0-13 (v Car­bery Rangers) on their way to the fi­nal where they recorded their big­gest to­tal, that 3-14 against the di­vi­sional team from Duhal­low.

Stephen Sher­lock is prob­a­bly their most po­tent for­ward, and he will cer­tainly pun­ish Dr Crokes from free kicks, so dis­ci­pline on the part of the home de­fence will be cru­cial.

Colin Lyons and Eoghan McGreevey also bring plenty to the St Fin­barrs at­tack, but the duel be­tween Maguire and prob­a­bly Buck­ley at mid­field will be a cru­cial one.

The prob­lem for St Fin­barrs might be that the long-awaited county ti­tle will have sated them enough for now, es­pe­cially given that most of these play­ers would have en­dured last year’s fi­nal de­feat to Nemo.

Cer­tainly their man­ager, Ray Keane, a Ca­her­siveen na­tive and former St Marys player, was in­clined to sug­gest that his play­ers would be al­lowed to cel­e­brate the club’s ninth county SFC ti­tle and first since 1985, when most of this team wasn’t even born.

Dr Crokes will be in a dif­fer­ent mind­set. A third county ti­tle on the spin will have been met with sat­is­fac­tion by the play­ers more than wild cel­e­bra­tion, and hav­ing lost their All-Ire­land Club ti­tle to Nemo last year, this group will be anx­ious to add a sec­ond All-Ire­land ti­tle to their grow­ing col­lec­tion of medals.

And they cer­tainly won’t want to be de­railed in that am­bi­tion by a Cork team for the sec­ond year run­ning, and es­pe­cially not a Cork team break­ing new ground on the provin­cial scene.

Dr Crokes se­lec­tor Ed­mund O’Sul­li­van said last Sun­day that he didn’t know a whole lot about St Fin­barrs but that work would start on Sun­day night, and the team would be look­ing for­ward to a Mun­ster semi-fi­nal on their home pitch.

“We’ll look to play to our strengths as usual and play our own game, but we will try to iden­tify any threats in St Fin­barrs and hope to nul­lify those,” he said.

Were this game played be­low in Cork there might be grounds for con­cern for Dr Crokes, but tak­ing the Cork cham­pi­ons to Lewis Road should be good enough for the Kerry cham­pi­ons to set up a Mun­ster Fi­nal against Mil­town-Mal­bay or The Nire on Novem­ber 25.

Ver­dict: Dr Crokes

St Fin­barrs’ man­ager and Ca­her­siveen na­tive Ray Keane

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