Nemo Rangers and a double-chasing St Finbarrs will go head-to-head in the County Senior Football Final later this month
Nemo Rangers and St Finbarr’s will contest the county premier senior football final on the last weekend in October following their victories over Ballincollig and Castlehaven respectively in the double-header at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday.
As with the hurling decider involving the Barrs and Blackrock next Sunday week, it means the football showpiece will feature two clubs with an illustrious tradition, having collected 32 titles between them in the past.
Nemo head the roll of honour with 22 to their credit, having made the breakthrough in 1972 when UCC were their victims in the final.
They have almost invariably been there-or-thereabouts in the meantime, enduring their longest barren spell when going six seasons without a title between 1993 and 2000.
It’s an astonishing record of consistency by a club that made it to the final for the first time in 1970 when they were denied the glory by Muskerry.
From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, the Barrs provided the only serious threat to Nemo’s dominance, reaching the summit in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1982 and 1985.
The championship was generally seen as a two-horse race in those days until divisional side Imokilly bucked the trend in 1984.
Remarkably, Nemo and Barrs didn’t collide in a county final for the first time until 1993.
Nemo prevailed that year, and they also came out on top in their two final meetings with the Barrs (2010 and 2017 after a replay) since then.
The Barrs fortunes went into decline following their defeat in the 1993 final, and they were relegated to intermediate ranks for a season, but they were soon back as a major force in the top flight.
Following three final defeats in 2009 (against Clonakilty), 2010 and 2017, they returned to the top at Duhallow’s expense in 2018.
They went all the way again last year, accounting for Clonakilty in the decider, and they certainly looked the part of true champions against Castlehaven.
As was expected, they were sternly tested by the Haven, who had beaten them in a penalty shoot-out at the semi-final stage in 2020 before the Barrs turned the tables in a similar manner at the penultimate hurdle last year.
Coming up to half-time, the Barrs fell behind to a goal from the Haven’s Michael Hurley, but the manner in which they responded left little doubt that they are abounding in resolve and self-belief.
They finished the first-half on level terms, and in a second-half of dramatically fluctuating fortunes, they made the decisive push in the last quarter when Steven Sherlock and Brian Hayes grabbed the goals that signposted their path to victory.
It was 2-17 to 1-16 at the end of an absolutely enthralling encounter, and, needless to say, the Barrs’ awesome fire-power was a key factor in their triumph.
As well as Steven Sherlock, who scored 1-6 from play, and Brian Hayes, Cillian Myers-Murray and Eoin McGreevey sparkled in a Barrs attack that showed a facility to frequently unhinge the Castlehaven defence, which enjoyed something of a charmed existence over the hour.
It’s fair to say the Barrs could have bagged three or four more goals on the day.
Elsewhere, the Barrs had stand-out performers in midfielder Ian Maguire and wing-back Colm Scully, but, all in all, it was a vibrant team display from the reigning champions.
Nemo’s win over Ballincollig was equally convincing, even if it wasn’t achieved in a similarly flamboyant manner.
That had much to do with the fact that Ballincollig packed their defence for long periods of the contest, something that Nemo have had to deal with more than once in the current campaign.
It can be taken for granted they’ll face a completely different type of challenge in the final when keeping the Barrs forwards in check will be a priority if they hope to prevail.
It’s promises to be a fascinating decider between two teams that have shared the last five titles, and have both qualified for the showpiece with an unblemished record this season.