NEMO RANGERS’ dominance of the Munster Club SFC continued at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney yesterday as the Cork champions produced a professional display which shattered Ballinacourty in a keenly contested provincial final.
Nemo, 14 times provincial champions, face an All-Ireland semi-final against Ballina Stephenites, and on the evidence of this remain favourites to make the All-Ireland decider on March 17.
They played with a near gale force wind in the opening half, led by nine points at the break, and then withstood a tremendous fightback by the Waterford champions.
Nemo had many heroes. James Masters underlined his worth with an inspired performance as he finished top scorer with five points and he might have had a goal but for an excellent save by Stephen Enright.
Paul Kerrigan, who will surely wear the county senior jersey next season, was also immense. His contribution of three points was crucial, and apart from his pace which caused endless problems for the Ballinacourty defence particularly in the second half, he played a major role in the game’s only goal. Martin Cronin was a commanding centre back while Derek Kavanagh and Niall Geary were equally as good in the full-back line.
Ballinacourty set their stall out early. They won the toss and elected to play into the howling wind, and it looked the correct decision as they pinned Nemo in their own half.
Eventually James Masters opened their account with a point, before the Cork champions showed their class with an opportunist goal in the fifth minute.
A long ball from defence was chased by Kerrigan who made ground in along the 13-metre line before unleashing a powerful shot goalwards.
Keeper Stephen Enright did well to parry the shot but the ball fell to David Kearney, who billowed the net from five metres.
If Nemo were to win, they would have to build a substantial half-time lead, but the Waterford champions defended well to deny them scores. When Declan Fives pointed a free for Ballinacourty in the 16th minute to open their account, they were playing well enough to suggest an upset, provided they could keep the Nemo scoring down.
However, playing the possession game to perfection, the Cork champions went on a scoring spree, kicking six points in a row, four of them by the brilliant Masters and at half time their nine point lead — 1-7 to 0-1 — looked to be good enough.
Against the wind, Nemo made some tactical decisions that were to prove crucial. They took off their goalscorer David Kearney, brought on Brian Twomey who did well around midfield, but it was the placing of Dylan Mehigan as an extra defender that was crucial.
Ballinacourty needed an early score on the changeover if they were turn this game around. Gary Hurney landed a point for his side the 33rd minute, but Nemo’s response was instant with a Ricky Kenny point.
Nemo are past masters at playing the short passing game and they frustrated their opponents by keeping possession and after 40 minutes, they still led by nine.
However Ballinacourty were winning more possession around the middle of the field through the excellence of Sean O’Hare, and they were thrown a lifeline in the 43rd minute, when Gary Hurney lofted a huge kick goalwards which Nemo ‘keeper Briain Morgan gathered safely, or so it looked.
However the officials adjudged the keeper to have stepped over the line and the umpire had no hesitation in putting up his green flag. Richie Foley added a point a minute later and it was all hands to the pump for Nemo as Ballinacourty, with the scent of victory in their nostrils, poured forward at every opportunity.
Nemo were at their best in such circumstances however. Brian O’Regan, Niall Geary, Dylan Mehigan and Derek Kavanagh defended superbly and in the odd attack the Cork champions mounted, they made it pay.
James Masters put Paul Kerrigan clear through with an inch-perfect pass, but he could only manage a point despite being one on one with the ‘keeper.
Back came the Waterford champions and points by Declan Fives and Mark Fives left four between the sides after 50 minutes. There was still plenty of time to turn the game around, but Ballinacourty couldn’t get their hands on the football as Nemo guarded possession.
Paul Kerrigan eased the pressure on his side with a point with four minutes to go, but still Ballinacourty refused to give up the chase. The Waterford side had to be content with two late points before the final whistle gave Nemo another Munster Club title.
Scorers: Nemo Rangers: J. Masters 0-5 (0-1 free, 0-1 45); D. Kearney 1-0; P. Kerrigan 0-3 (0-2 free); A. Cronin, R. Kenny 0-1 each. Ballinacourty: G. Hurney 1-1; D. Fives 0-3 (0-2 frees, 0-1 45); R. Foley, M. Fives, S. O’Hare 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; B. O’Regan, D. Kavanagh, N. Geary; M. Daly, M. Cronin, G. O Se; P. Morgan, M. McCarthy; R. Kenny, D. Mehigan, A. Cronin; D. Kearney, J. Masters, P. Kerrigan.
Subs: B. Twomey for Kearney; G. Murphy for O Se; B. O’Driscoll for Kenny; D. Breen for Daly.
BALLINACOURTY: S. Enright; J. Mullen, J. Kindergan, G. Breen; S. Briggs, J. Hurney, R. Foley; S. O’Hare, P. Lynch; M. Fives, L. Hurney, J. Phelan; G. Hurney, P. Hurney, D. Fives.
Subs: M. Ferncombe for Mullen; M. Gorman for Foley.
Referee: R. Hickey (Clare).