THERE wasn’t just an inevitability about the outcome of yesterday’s Evening Echo-sponsored Cork senior football championship final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
This game was so disappointingly one-sided that at no stage did debutants Douglas hint they’d deprive Nemo Rangers and manager Ephie Fitzgerald the honour of a first four-in-a-row in the history of the championship, 36 years after winning the first of their now 17 titles.
Billed as a local derby, it was only their second meeting at this level since 1963 — when Douglas spent two years in the grade until returning there 10 years ago. Ironically, the St Finbarr’s team they defeated in a relegation play-off 12 months ago won yesterday’s intermediate title with a much more impressive display of football.
Starting with nine of the side which lost in the All-Ireland club final last March and including four players who came in as substitutes that day, Nemo might have been a bit slow to settle into their stride, but they promised much in the opening quarter. Masters had them in front after a mere 40 seconds until a well-kicked free from Fearghal O’Sullivan six minutes later levelled scores for the only time in the game.
It was before they went back into the lead in the 9th minute (through the industrious Paul Kerrigan) that Cadogan first denied them a goal chance, when he smothered a low shot from Martin Cronin, who’d come through at pace to take the ball from Barry O’Driscoll. By the 20th minute, when Nemo led 0-3 to 0-2 after Douglas’ only other first-half score (a Mark Harrington free), the pattern of the game had been more or less established. This came after Sean O’Brien had time and space to go for goal but decided not to.
Predictably, because of their vast experience and greater level of skill, Nemo were more adept at moving the ball forward and working themselves into scoring positions, even if their finishing wasn’t up to their usual standard. Their team play was much more structured and productive. While Douglas enjoyed a degree of success with their defending under pressure, they weren’t competitive enough at midfield. Worst of all, the quality of ball delivered into the inside players was more often than not poor.
As a consequence, the Nemo backs were seldom put under real pressure, with Niall Geary and Derek Kavanagh both to the forefront and centre-back Brian Regan picking up a lot of ball and going forward regularly. As the game progressed Nemo increased their grip around midfield, with team captain Maurice McCarthy giving good leadership and David Niblock highlighting his consistency with arguably the best point of the game, nearing half-time.
Between Masters’ probing play at centre-forward, Alan Cronin’s high work-rate alongside him and some very good play from Kerrigan in the corner, Nemo’s attack posed a much stronger threat. Cadogan was the one player on the Douglas side who was able to perform at their standard, picked at full-back but given more scope outfield when Alan Morgan roamed. At the break it was 0-7 to 0-2 and it appeared that the cup was virtually guaranteed not to be moving across the Tramore river.
Two minutes into the second half, Douglas gained their first score from play through Barry Fitzgerald, who had moved from the wing into the right corner and who was one of their better players. In general, they suffered from a combination of unforced errors and some poor kicking — illustrated by a terrible wide from Harrington after Cadogan put him through in the 37th minute.
Nemo controlled the game without too much difficulty, with Regan again starring at centre-back (arguably their top performer, ahead of Niblock). And, they were helped too by the alertness of goalkeeper Briain Morgan in his reaction to Shane McCarthy’s punched effort five minutes later. Cadogan thwarted another effort at a Nemo goal, this time from substitute Dylan Mehigan after Masters picked him out with a kicked pass from the left corner.
The only pity from Cadogan’s perspective was that he got himself sent off nine minutes from time after getting a second yellow card. All that was significant from there to the finish was that Nemo still didn’t get the ball into the net. But there was no doubting the merit of their achievement in adding to the treble recorded last year.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: P. Kerrigan 0-5 (0-1 free); J. Masters 0-3; S. O’Brien 0-2; D. Niblock, M. McCarthy and D. Kearney (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Douglas: M. Harrington 0-2 (0-1 free); F. O’Sullivan (free), B. Fitzgerald and T. Sheehan 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; N. Geary, D. Kavanagh, S. McKeown; M. Cronin, B. Regan, C. O’Brien; D. Niblock, M. McCarthy (capt.); S. O’Brien, J. Masters, A. Cronin; B. O’Driscoll, A. Morgan, P. Kerrigan.
Subs: D. Mehigan for S. O’Brien (injured, 35th minute); D. Kearney for O’Driscoll (43rd); B. Twomey for Kerrigan (57th); S. Twomey for Geary and P. Brophy for Kavanagh (59th).
DOUGLAS: B. Boyle; E. Cotter, E. Cadogan, F. Tobin; N. Gannon, C. Hogan, R. Keating; C. Dineen, G. McLoughlin; B. Fitzgerald, T. Sheehan (capt.), F. O’Sullivan; K. Murphy, M. Harrington, S. McCarthy.
Subs: A. Barry for McLoughlin (second half); D. McSweeney for Dineen (43rd minute); J. Lane for Gannon (49th); W. Coveney for K,. Murphy (49th); R. Murphy for Tobin (59th).
Referee: M. Collins (Clonakilty).