GAA Football

Down star McCrickard revelling in the Barrs' Cork SFC triumph

Liatroim Fontenoy's clubman Conor McCrickard starred as St Finbarr's claimed the Cork SFC title with victory over Clonakilty on Sunday. Picture by Sportsfile
Neil Loughran

CONOR McCrickard had always dreamt of winning a championship in club colours – he just couldn’t have imagined it would be 250 miles away from his beloved Liatroim.

The Down dual star, who forced his way into the footballers’ starting 15 during Paddy Tally’s last campaign with the Mournemen, was as surprised as anyone to have ended up in the middle of the celebrations as St Finbarr’s claimed the Cork SFC crown on Sunday with a one-point victory over Clonakilty.

But that is the impression McCrickard has made since hooking up with the Barrs in September, a work placement with medical device company Stryker seeing the 22-year-old relocate to Cork for a year as part of a biomedical engineering degree at Ulster University.

McCrickard also turned out for the Togher club’s hurlers as they suffered an early championship exit, before playing a crucial role as St Finbarr’s landed the Andy Scannell Cup at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

And while some of his team-mates were still trying to shake off a hangover from the previous evening’s endeavours yesterday, teetotaler McCrickard was fresh as a daisy as he reflected on a momentous day in his young career.

“I’m just heading into town to meet the boys now,” he said.

“But yesterday was a totally new experience for me, getting to walk behind the band. I’d a lot of family down as well which added to things. There was probably 20 down between family, friends and folk I know.

“It was special to have that support from up home, it meant a lot that they came to watch me. Everybody has been really supportive of me coming down here.

“It’s all probably come as a bit of a surprise. I spoke to the selectors and the management at the start and they wanted me to come down a play a bit – I was very hesitant to be honest with you because my own club at home means a whole lot to me, but I had done the travelling a few times and it’s a three-and-a-half to four hour journey.

“I haven’t managed to win anything of that stature yet with my own club, but that’s something I’d love to achieve in the near future hopefully.”

Along the way, McCrickard helped the Barrs heal some wounds from last year as they toppled rivals Castlehaven in the last four – a reversal of the previous year’s semi-final showdown between the pair, when the ’Haven edged through on penalties.

McCrickard bagged 1-2 in the 2021 encounter, and was delighted to have been able to play his part.

“I got 1-2 but I could’ve finished up with probably 3-6 if I’d taken my opportunities,” he laughs.

“They showed a lot of faith in me – like, that team had won the championship in 2018 so it’s not like they’re not used to winning. I was just happy to come in and contribute in any way at all. I never could have imagined the way it would have worked out.

“All the lads I’m playing with are good lads, I’m actually surprised how well I’ve managed to fit in and how well they’ve welcomed me.

“I probably haven’t really got a good crack at things because of Covid, I would still miss home a good bit, but as long as the football keeps going and I’m enjoying my work, I can’t really complain.”

St Finbarr’s now look forward to a Munster SFC semi-final showdown against either Tipperary’s Loughmore-Castleiney or Clare’s Éire Óg, Ennis on December 18 as they bid to keep the dream alive into 2022.

Unfortunately for Down supporters, and new boss James McCartan, it looks unlikely McCrickard will be available for the foreseeable as he remains in Cork until next September.

However, having got a taste for it earlier this year, the Liatroim man still hopes he can have a big future in red and black.

“It would be tough to make it to the trainings,” he says, “it’s hard to know.

“It’s funny, Michael Shields captained Cork when they beat Down in the 2010 All-Ireland final, I was 11 years old, it was a heartbreaking day, but here we are now and he’s a team-mate.

“But from I was a young fella growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play for Down and that’s still the same.”

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