GAA Football

St Finbarr's revel in underdog role head of All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Kilcoo

St Finbarr's manager Paul O'Keefe believes his side will be underdogs in their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Kilcoo this weekend after the Down's side's comprehensive Ulster final win over Derrygonnelly 
Andy Watters

ST Finbarr’s will use their underdog status as extra motivation for Saturday’s All-Ireland Club Championship semi-final against Kilcoo in Portlaoise.

Cork city’s Munster champions are rank outsiders with the bookies against the Down and Ulster kingpins but manager Paul O’Keefe says being written off will inspire his men to cause an upset at O’Moore Park.

After a series of close shaves in Cork, ‘The Barrs’ were long-odds going into the Munster championship but they shredded the form book with an impressive win against Kerry’s Austin Stack’s in the provincial decider. O’Keefe hopes for a repeat on Saturday.

“Being the outsiders gives you a little bit of extra motivation that people don’t rate you,” he said.

“We don’t pay too much heed to the bookies anyway, we’ll turn up on Saturday and give it a good rattle.”

Giving it a “good rattle” will depend on the gameplan O’Keefe and his team have come with after sleepless nights wrestling with a solution to the Kilcoo conundrum. The Down champions have upped the ante for every stage of this campaign so far and swatted Fermanagh’s Derrygonnelly aside to retain their Ulster title.

“They were very impressive so they’ll be raging-hot favourites,” said O’Keefe.

“They’ve been involved in the Ulster Club and the All-Ireland Club for a good while now and that kind of experience counts for a lot at this level.

“But we’ve had our own experience over the last five or six years. The Barrs have been in a lot of big games as well so hopefully there won’t be that much between us there.

“I don’t know what happened to Derrygonnelly in the Ulster final, I’m sure that wasn’t their best performance they produced. I was expecting a much tighter game but you can’t take it away from Kilcoo, they were very impressive and they are going to be very hard to beat.

“They are very well set-up and hard to break down so they’ll pose us a lot of problems.”

If opponents ‘park the bus’ against them, Kilcoo can do the same and still find a way to break them down. If opponents go at them, the Down champions can play that way too and they’ve got the quality forwards to take every scoring opportunity that comes their way.

“They are clearly a very fit team and they’re well prepared,” said O’Keefe.

“They have a template that they play from and we’re looking at how we counteract that and how we put it under pressure. That’s given us a few sleepless nights and a few headaches because it’s going to be a tough one – they won’t easy to break down and we’ll have to figure out where our scores are going to come from and how we counteract their system to put pressure on them.”

On the sideline, O’Keefe is up against calm mastermind Mickey Moran whose reputation as a motivational man-manager and tactical genius is increasing with every game. Their strategic battle will be intriguing.

“Mickey has been around the block more than once so I’m sure he’ll bring something different on Saturday,” said O’Keefe.

“I’m involved with UCC in the Sigerson Cup with Billy Morgan and the knowledge men with that kind of experience have of the game is frightening. They are going back years and years and they have come across every type of scenario you could possibly think of.

“It’s a tough one to be up against an old dog like Mickey Moran but we’ll see how it goes.”


Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access