GAA Football

St Finbarr's keeper Kerins hails contribution of Down man to Cork club's quest for All-Ireland glory

27 January 2022; St Finbarr’s footballer John Kerins pictured ahead of one of #TheToughest showdowns of the year, which will see St. Finbarr’s face off against Kilcoo of Down in the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final this Saturday, January 29th at 3pm, at MW O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. The game will be broadcast live on TG4, with coverage starting at 2.45pm. In the other semi-final, Pádraig Pearses, Roscommon, will go head-to-head against Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin, at Kingspan, Breffni Park, Cavan on Saturday, January 29th at 5pm. This game will also be broadcast live on TG4, while tickets for both games are now available via https://www.gaa.ie/tickets/. This year’s AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what, and this Saturday’s showdown is set to be no exception. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***
PAUL KEANE

ST FINBARR'S goalkeeper John Kerins has hailed the 'massive' impact of Down import Conor McCrickard as they close in on a return to the AIB All-Ireland club final.

The Cork champions, All-Ireland winners on three occasions in the 1980s, face Kilcoo tomorrow and management will undoubtedly have mined adopted attacker McCrickard for information about the opposition.

The talented forward played with the Down seniors in the 2021 Championship before hooking up officially with St Finbarr's in Cork.

The 22-year-old biomedical engineering student is temporarily located in Cork on a work placement and opted to play both football and hurling for the 'Barrs.

It has proven a solid acquisition by the club as McCrickard started and scored in the county final before sniping 2-1 in the Munster club semi-final win over Ennis outfit Eire Og.

He lined out in the Munster final defeat of Austin Stacks too and will be a marked man when the Cork champions face Kilcoo - whom his cousin Ryan McEvoy plays for - in tomorrow's AIB All-Ireland semi-final in Portlaoise.

"He's made a massive impact, to be fair to Conor," said Kerins, son of the former Cork goalkeeper of the same name.

"He'd been in training with us during the summer. I think he was still attached to his club above in Down and it was kind of a coaxing job trying to get him to sign for us.

"But to be fair to him, he's probably taken a lot of pressure off the scoring forwards that we have, with the threat that he offers. He's making it a lot more competitive up front.

"The lads are probably performing that bit better around him because they know they have to if they want to keep their place. He has that inter-county experience which is massive at club level and he's showing it this year."

There is a distinct Ulster flavour to the Barrs squad with deputy goalkeeper Packie O'Neill hailing from Tyrone while Omagh man Ben Grugan is also involved.

McCrickard has made the biggest impact of the trio so far.

"We could see him in training and stuff like that straight away, we knew he had something to offer," said Kerins.

"There was no animosity or anything like that, he was welcomed with open arms. It so happened that we had the two lads from Tyrone there that kind of helped him bed in that big quicker and, to be fair, he's been top class all year."

McCrickard, who transferred from the Liatroim, would be an ironic gamebreaker if it works out that way against All-Ireland favourites Kilcoo.

"We know they're ultra defensive," said Kerins of the Ulster champions. "They break at pace and you can see why they're so dominant at times. It's rare enough that you get a team that can go forward and yet still come back at the pace they're travelling at so yeah, it's easy to see why they're favourites."

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