Despite being reduced to 14-men following the dismissal of Paul Kerrigan 12 minutes from the time, at a stage where five points separated the sides, Nemo had the flair and composure to stave-off Valley’s determined second-half rally.
A disastrous first-half show contributed hugely to Valley Rovers’ failure to win the trophy for the first time. Unable to score during the opening 30 minutes, Valley Rovers trailed 1-6 to 0-0 at half-time and were left with an Everest to climb.
Manfully they responded to the massive task confronting them and, principally due to the heroic Kevin Canty, the South East representatives succeeded in putting Nemo under severe pressure for a time. But in the end victory went to the more accomplished side.
Ironically Valley Rovers missed a golden opportunity to open the
scoring when Richard Butler sprinted through but instead of kicking over from a most advantageous position the centre forward elected to lay the ball off to a colleague. Possession was lost and Nemo countered with a gem of a goal from Conor Allen, who had been delightfully set-up by Paul Kerrigan in the third minute.
Valley Rovers were fortunate not to concede another goal a minute after Nemo’s first when a great angled shot from Kerrigan was saved on the line by corner back Stephen Manning and eventually swept to safety by goalkeeper Michael Power.
Strong at the back, with Raymond O’Keeffe outstanding, and stylish and efficient up front, Nemo took control after the first quarter and some brilliantly executed points from man of the match David Kearney, Ricky Kenny and Padraig O’Shea propelled them into a 1-6 to 0-0 lead.
A number of substitutions and the switch of midfielder Kevin Canty to full-forward for the second-half worked the oracle for Valley Rovers, who also received a great lift when Fiachra Lynch opened their account with a point from a long-range free a minute after the resumption.
The sight of their name on the scoreboard for the first time galvanised Valley Rovers into action. Two fine points from the inspirational Canty and another tapped over by Eoin Manning brought them roaring back into contention.
However, their resurgence was temporarily halted in the 38th minute when wing forward Ricky Kenny scored Nemo’s second goal out of the blue, punching home a high lob from Kearney. When Paul Kerrigan kicked two magnificent points in succession to stretch Nemo’s lead to 2-9 to 0-4, it looked to be all over for Valley Rovers entering the final quarter.
But, refusing to surrender they came thundering back again and two marvellous goals in the space of three minutes from Donal O’Driscoll and Canty had them breathing down the champions’ necks for the second time in the game.
Although they tried diligently and cut the lead to four points after Kerrigan’s departure, following an off-the-ball incident, Valley Rovers could not get any closer and Nemo, with an injury time point from the sparkling Conor Allen, sealed their five-point triumph.
Scorers: Nemo Rangers: C. Allen 1-2; R. Kenny 1-1; D. Kearney 0-5 (0-1 from free); P. Kerrigan 0-2; P. O’Shea 0-1.
Valley Rovers: K. Canty 1-3; D. O’Driscoll 1-0; F. Lynch 0-2 (0-2 from frees); E. Manning 0-1.
NEMO RANGERS: R. Heaphy; S. McKeown, S. Twomey, C. McGrath; R. O’Keeffe, G. O’Shea, C. O’Brien; B. Twomey, A. Kelleher; R. Kenny, P. O’Shea, P. Kerrigan; P. McCabe, C. Allen, D. Kearney. Sub: P. Hogan for McCabe.
VALLEY ROVERS: M. Power; B. Lehane, M. O’Brien, S. Manning; D. Kelleher, D. Lynch, R. Lehane; F. Lynch, K. Canty; C. O’Donovan, R. Butler, H. O’Donovan; D. Collins, E. Manning, D. O’Driscoll.
Subs: E. Lehane for R. Lehane; B. Canty for Butler; F. Coughlan for O’Donovan; J. Kelleher for Coughlan.
Referee: G. Sweeney (Glenville).