Naomh Fionnbarra's Conor Osbourne in action in the league earlier this year. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Naomh Fionnbarra have looked a formidable unit since returning to the Junior Grade which they won two years ago. This upward momentum, despite having to go through two recent relegations.
They faced Roche in the battle for Intermediate survival last year and looked in a good place when Ciaran Markey and Conor Osbourne grabbed second half goals. However, they were hit with 2-3 without reply in the final five minutes, thus dooming them to the bottom tier.
One advantage they have over the entire field at this level is the fact they have been playing some top-class opposition up in Division 2. Although, having lost 12 of their 16 matches they found themselves suffering another relegation.
Those plights have hardly been noticeable once the Togher men got into championship mode and they have looked very good as they topped a group involving Stabannon Parnells and Sean McDermotts.
They didn’t miss a beat in their opener versus the Seans, four first half goals from Adam Hanratty, Thomas McCreesh, Ciaran Murphy and Jack Butterly seeing the tie go well beyond their opponents. Elsewhere Conor Osborne was a constant menace on the 40, winning every breaking ball.
Top spot in the group was always going to be decided with their clash with Stabannon, which despite the wet conditions did not disappoint.
When it looked like both sides were going to be sharing the spoils, Ciarán Murphy was the hero of the hour once again for the Barrs with a last gasp free to win the game for the 2020 champions deep into injury time.
Jack Butterly was their scorer in chief, impressing against a well drilled Parnells defence. After a bright start, interestingly they only really pushed on late in the contest after Kalum Regan was sent off. Conor Osborne found the net, while James Butterly came up the field for two successive points.
Moving over to the plights of Naomh Malachi, the Courtbane base side would have always fancied their chances in a group that contained St Nicholas, Cuchulainn Gaels and the Wolfe Tones.
Padraig Moley and Shane Rogers were terrific in the second half of their opener against the Gaels, helping turn a two-point deficit at the break into a lead. Yet missed chances allowed the Omeath men to stay in touch; a late effort from Raymond Phillips seeing the sides’ share a point.
They would be well defeated by Wolfe Tones in round 2, a game where they had little to play for by the break having trailed by 1-10 to 0-3. Maybe they were already thinking about the final round tussle with the Nicks, where a positive result could put them into the knockout stages.
Persisting class and untold leadership, Paudie Moley and Ronan McElroy found the net in either half. Those majors would power the border side into the winning position, but placed balls from Shane Rogers would guide them there. Coupled with a poor result for the Gaels and they were through.
Peter McShane’s team have already done enough to see this as a good year, and this could be their toughest assignment to date.
Having only just grabbed a draw with the Gaels and struggled against an already knocked out Nicks, the Finbarrs should have more then enough firepower to go one step closer to an immediate return to the Intermediate ranks.
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