ALL too easy at the finish, but Nemo Rangers had to endure some anxious moments before seeing off Ballylanders in this hugely entertaining AIB Munster Club SFC semi-final at Kilmallock yesterday.
The Cork champions, a goal and a point down inside the opening five minutes, displayed commendable spirit to lead by three points at the break, and then found themselves a point down early in the second-half before eventually killing off Ballylanders by scoring 1-5 without reply to set up a final meeting against Ballinacourty (Waterford) on Sunday, December 9 at a venue to be decided.
There was no disputing Nemo’s right to the spoils. Their football was breathtaking at times, particularly in the lead-up to their second goal. They had surrendered their half-time lead seven minutes into the second-half but, in a superb passing movement from their own defence, Peter Morgan billowed the net for a textbook goal that finally broke the Limerick champions’ challenge.
While there was no faulting the Nemo attack — five of their six forwards got on the scoresheet — they conceded 2-9 which would win many a game and it’s an area that coach Ephie Fitzgerald and his backroom staff will have to look at.
Mick Daly’s introduction to wing back for the second-half helped to steady things down. Brian O’Regan was another who had an excellent hour, along with Gearóid O’Shea and Niall Geary.
Ballylanders’ tactic of breaking the ball around midfield meant Maurice McCarthy was unable to win any clean possession like he did in the previous game against Moyle Rovers. But he did manage a couple of superb fetches in the second half.
Peter Morgan was an able assistant to McCarthy and took his goal with style. Nemo’s attack never stopped running with Paul Kerrigan, David Kearney, Rickie Kenny and James Masters getting on the end of some great moves.
Despite the six-point deficit, Ballylanders lost no caste in defeat. They went into the game complete underdogs; rattled Nemo in the early minutes; found the net a second time after the Cork champions had drawn level; reeled off four points on the bounce early in the second-half before eventually succumbing to Nemo’s greater firepower.
Shane Fox was excellent for Ballylanders at full-back until he was forced off with an injury; his brother, Patrick, was outstanding at centre-back which forced Nemo to make a change in that area.
Midfielders Willie Kelly and Mike O’Brien succeeded in preventing the Nemo pair from winning first phase possession by breaking the ball away, but they were almost totally reliant on Kieran O’Callaghan for scores. He contributed 1-5, but all from placed balls, while the Murphy brothers Jimmy and Danny chipped in with a brace of points each.
The big crowd, the majority supporting Ballylanders, got plenty to shout about in the early minutes when Danny Murphy pointed and Stephen Fox slipped home a goal. Those scores set the tone for a marvellous contest, played at a blistering pace. Paul Kerrigan rattled the Ballylanders crossbar and it was a sign of what was to come.
Nemo rattled over four points without reply to draw level after 13 minutes. After their dream start Ballylanders were reduced to sporadic raids but they won a dubious penalty in the 22nd minute when Kieran O’Callaghan was felled in the square and, after dusting himself down, duly dispatched the ball to the net.
Nemo rallied and in a blistering scoring burst rattled in 1-3 without reply, Ricky Kenny scoring the goal, and they led 1-7 to 2-1 at half time.
Ballylanders threw down the gauntlet a second time on the change over, scoring four points in a row, but in between Paul Kerrigan missed a sitter for Nemo.
By now Ballylanders had lost corner back Liam Martin for a red card offence and Nemo made it tell. Peter Morgan scored their second goal and it was plain sailing to the finish.
Scorers for Nemo: P. Kerrigan 0-5 (0-2 frees); R. Kenny 1-2; D. Kearney, J. Masters (0-2 frees) 0-3 each; P. Morgan 1-0; A. Cronin 0-2.
Ballylanders: K. O’Callaghan 1-5 (1-0 pen., 0-5 frees); Stephen Fox 1-0; D. Murphy, J. Murphy 0-2 each.
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; B. O’Regan, D. Kavanagh, N. Geary; D. Breen, M. Cronin, G. O’Shea; P. Morgan, M. McCarthy; R. Kenny, D. Mehigan, A. Cronin; D. Kearney, J. Masters, P. Kerrigan.
Subs: M. Daly for Breen; B. Twomey for Mehigan; G. Murphy for M. Cronin; A. Morgan for Masters; C. O’Brien for O’Shea.
BALLYLANDERS: D. O’Connor; L. Martin, Shane Fox, S. Walsh; C. McSweeney, P. Fox, T. Fox; W. Kelly, M. O’Brien; J. Barry-Murphy, Stephen Fox, J. Murphy; M. Mansell, D. Murphy, K. O’Callaghan.
Subs: D. Dineen for Shane Fox; M. Fox for McSweeney; E. Walsh for M. Mansell.
Referee, R. Hickey (Clare).