Despite an encouraging first-half performance from the West Cork side, they could not maintain the momentum against a more polished and ruthless Nemo after the interval, particularly early in the third quarter when the champions notched four points without replay. Ephie Fitzgerald’s side might even have won by a more emphatic margin had they converted two second half penalty opportunities.
In the first-half Clon refused to allow Nemo dictate the tempo of the game.
Indeed Clon will count themselves unlucky not to retire in front at the break such was their territorial advantage. They hunted in packs, scavenged for every breaking ball while their support play was far superior to Nemo.
Shooting proved problematic again for Clon and Griffin saw two of his early attempts drop short inside the opening five minutes before Jerry Kerins, playing in front of the Nemo half-backline, kicked over the opening free after James Masters had fouled.
Clon sweated and laboured for their opening scores.
Their perseverance paid off with two points on 12 and 13 minutes as the pendulum finally swung their way. Impressive midfielder Walsh then swung over a fine point.
Nemo’s busiest player Sean O’Brien curled over a fine effort on 20 minutes, but Clon were the more industrious and hungrier. Points from Martin O’Brien – when a goal was on – and a fine individual effort from Griffin made it 0-5 0-2 on 24 minutes. Masters did get one back from a free on 26 minutes before Clon’s powerful first-half performance found perfect expression in their final point of the half from Colm Callanan.
Everyone thought that was the pivotal moment but, in the 30th minute, Nemo showed their ability to conjure up something special, even against the run of play. David Niblock won a kick-out, curled a deft ball into Alan Cronin in the left corner and the former Cork senior soloed along the end line before directing a low shot from a narrow angle to the net. All Clon’s hard work had come to nought and it stood 1-3 to 0-6 at the break.
Clearly inspired by the straight talking of coach Ephie Fitzgerald at half time, Nemo re-emerged with a new found zest. Inside seven minutes the champions fired four points, two from narrow angles by Martin Cronin, his brother, Alan, and the enterprising Niblock adding the others.
The introduction of Maurice McCarthy to midfield, allied to the splendid defensive play of Paul Brophy, Ciarán O’Shea and the industrious Cronin brothers all combined to make Nemo look a far more intimidating force.
Clon didn’t fold completely and fought doggedly to arrest the Nemo onslaught. A brief schmozzle on the sideline, after Derek Kavanagh went in late on a Clon player, upped the intensity levels. From this, an off-the-ball incident outside the 21, Niall Barrett award a free which Conrad Murphy pointed.
Nemo squandered some good point scoring opportunities in this third quarter and Clon brought the margin down to two on 46 minutes through a Murphy point. Nemo were awarded a penalty after Dylan Mehigan was upended in the square but Masters’ low strike to the right was pawed away by Pa O’Regan.
There still was a chink of hope for Clon but their shooting left them down, sending two wide in the 50th and 51st minutes which could have levelled matters. The last say was with Nemo, and Masters in particular, who scored his side’s last three points, two from play and one from another penalty after Alan Cronin was impeded.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: A Cronin 1-1; J Masters 0-4 (0-1 free; 0-1 pen); M Cronin 0-2; J Kerins (free), S O’Brien and D Niblock 0-1 each.
Clonakilty: C Murphy 0-3 (0-2 frees); P Griffin 0-2; M O’Brien, B Walsh and C Callanan 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS: D Heaphy; P Brophy, N Geary, C O’Shea; G Murphy, M Cronin, B Twomey; D Kavanagh, D Niblock; D Mehigan, A Cronin, R Kenny; J Masters, S O’Brien, J Kerins.
Subs: M McCarthy for Geary (ht); P Kerrigan for M Cronin (50)
CLONAKILTY: P O’Regan; T O’Sullivan, Tony Anglin, D O’Brien; D Murphy, N Griffin, N Hayes; B Walsh, C McManus; D Lyons, C Murphy, C O’Donovan; C Callanan; M O’Brien, P Griffin.
Subs:Timmy Anglin for Tony Anglin (ht); S Quirke for Callanan (52); S Nagle for McManus (57)
Referee: N Barrett (Carrigtwohill).