Nemo claimed a 21st county title thanks largely to a devastating ten minute spell in the middle of the first half transforming a draw game into a ten-point half-time lead.
It was a richly deserved victory as the city side showed their class to keep their total defeats in county finals to an incredible four from 25 appearances.
Nemo’s management team can take a lot of credit for the way in which their side gained the upper hand from the off.
A key positional switch was the swapping of Barry O’Driscoll and Luke Connolly from their recent full-forward and wing-forward berths respectively.
O’Driscoll, playing at wing-forward, offered an additional kickout option for Micheál Aodh Martin as well his huge workrate and control in possession around the middle third.
Connolly, on the other hand, got to express his talents closer to goal and a personal tally of 2-4, 2-1 from play, illustrates the contribution he made.
Nemo looked to hit Connolly early and often and despite an early missed goal chance and a few turnovers, he was the right man in the right place twice in quick succession, even if he had to rely on his soccer skills to complete the job for his second goal.
Further back the field the repositioning of Jack Horgan this year has proved to be a masterstroke.
Man of the match from midfield in the 2017 victorious county final replay against the Barr’s, Horgan was excellent roaming forward from wing back.
As well as competing well on breaks and contributing well to attacks it brought the added bonus of dragging Duhallow’s playmaker Eoghan McSweeney back the field.
He was particularly effective in the first half and also spurned a great goal chance directly from the second half throw-in.
In addition, the return of Alan O’Donovan from a serious knee injury and the signing of Roscommon senior James McDermott ensured that they had a midfield that more than held its own.
The arrival under the radar of McDermott was no doubt a welcome bonus but the importance of a player and a character like O’Donovan can’t be underestimated.
He, along with the likes of Aidan O’Reilly, Colin O’Brien and late substitute Peter Morgan, are a key reason Nemo continue to dominate Cork football. Their leadership and attitude ensure standards don’t slip in Trabeg.
It’s a pity from a Cork point of view that injuries have hampered O’Donovan’s career as he would have been a welcome addition in recent years.
Nemo’s conveyor belt shows no sign of slowing either as Briain Morgan and Mark Cronin have slotted in seamlessly in the corner positions at opposite ends of the field and will no doubt become integral members of the team in due course.
Initial celebrations looked somewhat muted afterwards but for some of those Nemo players this was a first county title.
At the other end of the spectrum, Paul Kerrigan collected his eighth county title, one shy of the club record and surpassing his father Jimmy’s haul of seven.
From a Duhallow point of view, this defeat will grate for many a year. Their sluggish start to the game cost them dearly as it was they who needed the confidence and energy of a good start more than their opponents.
Hand-passes going to feet, poor shot selection and execution and a massive struggle on their own kickouts (six from 12) among a myriad of contributing factors to a poor first half.
To his credit, manager Pádraig Kearns refused to use club commitments as an excuse but as a neutral it is hard not to acknowledge it is a contributing factor.
After a hard-fought victory over Newcestown in the semi-final, ten of the starting team were in club action last weekend, delaying recovery and preparation for yesterday’s senior final.
An unfortunate situation, but an unavoidable one from a county board’s point of view.
In fact given that 12 of yesterday’s team started last year’s defeat to the Barr’s, it adds to the disappointment of their first-half performance which yielded just two points.
The much needed second-half goal never materialised and despite a valiant effort to reduce the margin to four points and forcing a couple of top class saves from Martin in the Nemo goal, the result was never really in doubt.
Nemo showed all their experience in the second half, retreating in numbers and fouling cynically when required. The only surprise was that Nemo weren’t able to supply a killer blow, spurning a few goal chances on the counter-attack which kept faint Duhallow hopes alive.
It was mentioned in a post-match interview by a Nemo player that they had identified a soft centre down the middle of their defence as a major issue in recent years with the concession of too many goals.
This improvement was evident in the opening exchanges as both Walshs found the middle channel clogged and were turned over as a result.
This was a very obvious tactic in the quarter-final as they negated the usual cutting threat of Ian Maguire with both midfielders and ‘Tucker’ O’Brien funneling back.
For Nemo, attention turns to a Munster campaign and should, as expected, they overcome their Limerick opponents Newcastle West in a fortnight’s time they will welcome either Dr Crokes or Austin Stacks to Páirc Uí Rinn in a Munster semi-final.
There could be a long year ahead yet for Nemo.
In the curtain-raiser, it was heartbreak again for St Michaels who will at least have the consolation of returning to the senior grade next year.
Finally as a Ballincollig man it would be remiss of me not to congratulate our next-door neighbours and good friends Éire Óg on winning the Premier Intermediate title and entering the senior ranks for the first time.
After a junior county title in 2008 to go senior in just over a decade is an outstanding achievement.
They were led again by their inspirational captain and marksman Daniel Goulding whose accuracy proved the difference in an enthralling encounter.