JBM legend’s parting words helped Barrs rise to be counted

So, after all the noise, the Munster club football final ended in Thurles. It didn’t matter to the winners, which is no surprise.

The Barrs never worried too much about where they would face the Rockies.

Their margin of victory over Austin Stacks was two points, courtesy of an added-time goal from Sean Quilter for champions Kerry, but on balance the Cork side deserved victory.

They seized the initiative early, they were more effective on offense, and even when they lost momentum in the third quarter, they never let Austin Stacks tie the game, and they found their way back to the fillets late.

No one would have been surprised before the game to learn that a towering full-back had helped his team score the game’s first goal.

The upset centered on the identity of the striker in question: Brian Hayes, uncertain all week with a lingering hamstring injury, started the game for the Barrs as a full forward, and after ten seconds he disputed a high delivery.

When the ball broke, Hayes sent it clean to Cillian Myers-Murray, alone in the big parallelogram. Wayne Guthrie in the Austin Stacks goal got wide wide and got his hands on the shot, but he went in anyway: 1-0 to no score and 15 seconds on the clock.

“It’s something we’ve been working on, trying to work a score to get us going,” Hayes said.

“I went forward and a high ball – but Cillian has been doing that for years, getting those goals. I knew when I put it in him he was going to score a goal.

“And we needed it. Even though we scored that goal, we didn’t play very well. The Stacks had most of the possession for the next ten minutes, but they didn’t do too much damage on the scoreboard.

The Barrs rode on the momentum of that first goal at the interval. Austin Stacks managed just one point before the first water break, and although they were better afterwards, the Cork side looked full of confidence.

Stephen Sherlock’s eye was in and Hayes was a dominant personality in the narrative, hitting two points. This pair hit two of their points in injury time, which suddenly pushed the Barrs lead to 1-7 from 0-4, a huge lead.

January 16, 2022; St Finbarr’s players celebrate with the cup after the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final match between Austin Stacks and St Finbarr’s at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

“We had that gap, we were only three down,” Hayes said.

“But there were six of us at the break which was a good lead to have.

“The guys (management) said to make sure we didn’t take our foot off the pedal, and I know that’s exactly what we did, but we’re used to teams coming back to us, we know how to get out of it and that’s what we did in the end.

The third quarter was like a photo negative of the first, with Austin Stacks completely over the top.

Much more aggressive in pressing Barr’s kick, they forced turnovers and engaged more men up front, and duly reaped the rewards. Greg Horan’s long-range kick was a highlight, and Michael O’Donnell’s speculative shot bounced off the post or Kerry’s side would have led in the second waterbreak, instead of trailing from a single point, 1-7 to 0 -9.

“The stacks pushed at kickoff,” Hayes said.

“They cashed in on us a bit and a few things went against us, we didn’t get a free here and there, and when those go against you it’s tough.

“And six points is not that big of a lead. When they got their fourth in a row, we knew they were pretty close, but we weren’t that worried.

“On the second water break, Paul (O’Keeffe, manager) said we did exactly what he said not to do, but he said get it right or we would have gone down. with regret.

“Enda Dennehy came on and he showed how good he was – he could have taken his point but he rounded the keeper for the goal, and that’s exactly what you need.”

Hayes’ analysis was on point. Dennehy combined well with another sub, the experienced Michael Shields, to push the winners five ahead in the 59th minute. Stacks didn’t die and reduced that lead to one point, courtesy of Quilter’s stoppage-time goal, but Shields then earned a vital free-kick which Sherlock scored for the insurance score.

Hayes added that the Barrs relied on their rich heritage to prepare for the game.

“During the week we heard about the heroes of the club, like JBM (Jimmy Barry-Murphy). He spoke to us during the week – he got us together and spoke to us, and we were given a great start to the club ahead of a Munster final.

The big midfielder admitted he had had his doubts – he was named as a substitute in the program – but his hard work paid off at Semple Stadium.

“I was working hard to get it right, but I had a setback two weeks ago, I just hurt it again.

“I did a good job with (physio) Colin Lane and we had four or five good sessions. I didn’t do much with the team but luckily they held up the game at the end.

One day when they all got up.

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