Anthony Daly: Barrs rolled up their sleeves and decided they wanted it more

Anthony Daly: Barrs rolled up their sleeves and decided they wanted it more

When I set off to Cork from west Clare yesterday morning, the weather was decent. Dull and overcast but no rain. By the time I reached Charleville though, the rain was hammering off the windscreen. By the time I was passing the statue of the great Irish elk on the Mallow-Cork road, I could barely even see the road, never mind spot the huge bronze antlers on top of the hill.

By that stage, I was only going at about 30kmph. It was a crawl from there into the Park. I was lucky I left early. I got in for the last 25 minutes of the curtain raiser between Inniscarra and Castlemartyr. That was a rip-roaring contest but you knew by that stage, when the pitch was already taking on huge water, that the elements were going to play a huge part in how the senior final would pan out.

When the weather gets that bad, I’d always be pedantic about detail. I couldn’t get over lads using their number one hurley in the warm-up and then looking at backroom mentors coming out with rafts of towels trying to dry the grips before the match started. I’d have my best hurleys wrapped up nice and warm before whipping them out before the throw-in.

The small things make the biggest difference when the weather turns that bad. I couldn’t understand Blackrock playing against the breeze and the elements after winning the toss. You have to take everything that is going early on.

Louis Mulqueen was jumping for joy on the sideline when Blackrock got 1-2 without reply early on to go level. But there can be an awful danger in that attitude when you think that the job may be half done when you’ve played against the breeze in the first half.

Blackrock were just blown out of it in the second half by a ‘Barrs outfit who just rolled up their sleeves and showed that they wanted it more.

Despite only having a marginal lead at half-time, I felt the Barrs were the better team in that period. Blackrock did create a handful of goal chances but I thought that was also a false complexion on the trend of the match.

Did the Rockies think it was just going to happen for them in the second half? I’d say there may have been hints of that attitude. Early on in the half, Alan Connolly had a chance of a handy point and they tried to work a goal. You just have to keep the scoreboard moving. Keep it simple. No need to get greedy too early.

The weather was atrocious but the Barrs handled it. The Rockies didn’t. Two points in 30 plus minutes, irrespective of the conditions, won’t win you a game of ping-pong, never mind a county final.

It was even more disappointing because the sense beforehand was that the weather would suit the Rockies as they were deemed to be a bigger, stronger team. Yet I’m a firm believer that the better hurlers always come out on top when the weather turns that badly.

Playing into the breeze, the Barrs just thrived. Ben Cunningham and Conor and Jack Cahalane were brilliant running at the Rockies defence. The Barrs have class young players in Ben O’Connor, Ethan Twomey, William Buckley and Brian Hayes but Cunningham was a cut above everyone yesterday. He is still under 20 but he will definitely be on Pat Ryan’s radar after this performance.

It was a supremely disciplined display from the Barrs but it had to be in the conditions. You’d be imploring fellas beforehand not to dive in, not to give away cheap frees, and the Barrs didn’t. Their defence was outstanding. They had heroes everywhere but I’m really delighted for Damien Cahalane. He has taken a lot of stick over the years, but he proved again yesterday how much of a warrior he is.

Gameplans go out the window on days like this. I’d say Blackrock have changed their style under Louis because when I saw them a couple of years ago they were more direct. They were just turned over too easily yesterday when they tried to overcomplicate it at times.

Blackrock just seemed to malfunction in the second half. Even when they trailed by five points after 43 minutes, despite having the breeze behind them, you never really felt there was a way back for them. Brian Hayes’ goal shortly afterwards effectively ended the match. Conor Cahalane’s goal tied the blue ribbon on it.

St Finbarr’s matched up all over the field. You’d have to tip the hat to Adrian O’Brien, their S&C coach, but he could have a fair headache in a couple of weeks. He’s also involved with Ballyea in Clare. If they win on Sunday, he might have to sit in the stand because the Barrs play the Clare champions in the Munster club semi-final.

It was some day for the men from Togher. They are a brilliant club when you consider all the legends they have produced over the years. It must be even more satisfying again when one of those giants guided them home.

I’m really delighted for the Cunningham family, especially Ger. Managing his club to a first title in 29 years is special but it is extra sweet with two of his sons on the team. Ger has won everything in the game but I’d say this has to be one of his sweetest victories.

After such a long wait, everyone in the Barrs will savour this one.

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