BAD news for anyone wishing Nemo Rangers off their club championship pedestal — Cork’s finest are going nowhere.
Well, nowhere except onwards and upwards to at least another Munster Club SFC title. Despite the protestations of their coach Ephie Fitzgerald, yesterday’s Kerry victims will be the most durable opposition Nemo will face this side of Christmas, and the Cork champions paid them the compliment of producing their best performance of the season to send them home soaked and sorry.
Whatever about Kerins O’Rahillys’ Kerry county final date next Sunday, even fully focused they would have struggled to live with Nemo’s pace of thought and movement in yesterday’s provincial quarter-final.
The Trabeg men were powerful and precise, economical too — scoring 2-12 in ghastly conditions is some achievement.
Paul Kerrigan’s 2-5 wasn’t bad either — 2009 will see him stake a serious claim to a Cork jersey, and the watching Conor Counihan had plenty of early notes as he watched the corner forward grab two goals in the opening 19 minutes. That they were the six points between the teams at the final whistle was appropriate. Nemo always had their Kerry foes at arms’ length after Kerrigan took a David Niblock pass for a sublime second goal in the 20th minute to make it 2-1 to 0-5.
However, as the scoreline at that juncture suggests, O’Rahillys were giving as good, and more, as they were getting. They conceded a soft opening goal after only two minutes — keeper Garry Kissane failing to command his area, allowing Kerrigan to beat him to the punch — but had edged 0-5 to 1-1 in front by the 18th minute. Tommy Walsh promised plenty on the ‘40’, and Nemo moved quickly with Niall Geary to curtail the early threat of Declan Quill.
However, from a Strand Road point of view, one of their most potent weapons was already down and out — Barry John Walsh stretchered off after an accidental clash with Derek Kavanagh after 14 minutes. An initial prognosis was achilles damage but the picture in relation to Sunday’s county final looked a little brighter last night. However it forced an attacking reshuffle and undoubtedly weakened their options up front. In stark comparison, Nemo’s attack began to find third and sometimes fourth gear. Kerrigan showed his pace as he skinned Gavin Duffy to fist a point from an acute angle and before half time David Kearney and James Masters dug out well taken scores to turn over 2-4 to 0-6 to the good.
On such a dire afternoon, it wasn’t all about artistic endeavour. Niblock and Maurice McCarthy dug in well around midfield, as did centre back Brian O’Regan. Sadly from a Tralee point of view, it was the second half before Mike Quirke really began to dominate around midfield.
By that juncture, O’Rahillys were, metaphorically speaking, uphill and against the breeze.
Their coach Jack O’Connor pushed David Moran into a more advanced position on the 40 for the second half to compensate for the loss of Walsh, and the All-Ireland U21 winner underlined his range of talents with three long range points.
However it was evident the Kerry side would need a goal to test Nemo’s stability — and the only clear-cut opening came as early as the 32nd minute, Keane setting up Tommy Walsh who was two feet too high with his effort.
Nevertheless it was refreshingly entertaining, with a crowd of around 1,000 making allowances for the conditions. Pity referee Brian Tyrell didn’t do likewise. Too often, he pulled up players for handling the ball on the ground when the alternative was to apply common sense.
Barry John Keane and Moran landed inspirational points to reduce the deficit to two points (2-5 to 0-9), but the final 20 minutes was classic Nemo. Neat and efficient defensively, they worked good openings for their inside forwards time after time, drawing frees which Kerrigan and Masters converted consistently.
While O’Rahillys never threw in the towel, it must have been demoralising to have every score trumped by one at the other end. No sooner had Niblock gone in full forward in the 50th minute than he landed an outstanding point to ease Nemo into a 2-10 to 0-11 point lead.
Quirke continued to rail against the inevitable, as did Brian Moran, but the Tralee side were having to work harder and harder to create scoring opportunities. Conversely, Kerrigan and co were stretching the O’Rahillys defence beyond breaking point.
Nemo will travel to West Limerick in a fortnight to face Drom-Broadford knowing they are back in that seasonal club championship groove.
The compensation for Kerins O’Rahillys is possibly more appealing — a county final against Mid Kerry next Sunday confident they won’t face anything tougher than the benchmark of club football teams yesterday.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: P. Kerrigan (2-5, 4 frees), J. Masters (0-4, 2 frees), D. Niblock, D. Kearney, D. Mehigan (0-1 each).
Kerins O’Rahillys scorers: D. Quill (0-5, 3 frees), D. Moran (0-3, 1 ‘45’, 1 free), T. Walsh (0-2), J. O’Connor, B.J. Keane (0-1 each).
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; N. Geary, D Kavanagh, S. McKeown; M. Cronin, B Regan, C. O’Brien; M. McCarthy, D. Niblock; S. O’Brien, J. Masters, A. Cronin; B. O’Driscoll, D. Kearney, P. Kerrigan.
Subs: C. O’Shea for McKeown (36); D. Mehigan for Kearney (48); B. Twomey for O’Driscoll (52); G. Murphy for O’Brien (59); P. Brophy for Geary (59).
KERINS O’RAHILLYS: G. Kissane; D. O’Sullivan, M. O’Shea, G. O’Grady; G. Duffy, B. Moran, B. Quill; D. Moran, M. Quirke; J. O’Connor, B.J. Walsh, T. O’Sullivan; D. Quill, T. Walsh, B.J. Keane.
Subs: R. Molloy for BJ Walsh (14); P. Madden for O’Sullivan (half time); J. Kelly for O’Grady (58), K. Scannell for Duffy (58).
Referee: B. Tyrell (Tipperary).