After 19 minutes of effort from both sides, All-Ireland club finalists Nemo Rangers led Aghada by 0-3 to 0-1 before getting a goal either side of half time and enjoying a 13-point advantage at the three-quarters stage.
And then we saw Aghada persistence paying off with a goal from their best forward, Trevor O’Keeffe in the 54th minute and after Nemo lost team captain Maurice McCarthy for a second yellow card offence, they finally got their forward game going with a further goal and three points in an eight-minute period.
Of course, it happened all too late for the East Cork side, whose work-rate more than matched that of the craftier Nemo but whose use of the ball going forward was often seriously deficient by comparison. In short, it was a typical display from the reigning champions, well organised and methodical, who on this display will be hard to stop in their quest to achieve four-in-a-row.
They started with just one change in personnel from the side which lost in the All-Ireland Club Final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day — Sean O’Brien at right half-forward in place of Rickey Kenny — but with positional alterations both in defence and attack, which featured county players Derek Kavanagh and James Masters at centre-back and centre-forward respectively. And, not for the first time, Masters played a key role in attack, despite the best efforts of Paul Kilbane and Kieran O’Connor.
Masters got their opening score, from a 9th minute free and while Aghada were to be frustrated by the lack of return from a number of promising attacks, they could feel satisfied with their defensive covering, which was assisted by team captain John Paul O’Connor and others dropping back to help ease the pressure. The problem was they missed good scoring chances, resulting from the hard work Ronan Dwane, O’Connor, O’Keeffe and Cian Fleming — along with Tom O’Neill at midfield.
Nemo finished the half strongly. The 10 minutes before the break saw them finish with a flourish with the first of two goals from Alan Cronin in injury time, when he had the simple task of finishing the ball to the net after ‘keeper Evan Kennedy dropped an angled shot from David Kearney.
Turning over 1-5 to 0-1 in front, Aghada suffered another body blow when slack marking left Kearney in for a goal chance which he took expertly. Nemo’s defence was even harder to penetrate, Peter Morgan was stronger at midfield and with Masters, Dylan Mehigan, Kearney and Paul Kerrigan to the forefront up front, they maintained control.
A third goal followed, from Alan Cronin (created by Mehigan) and it served to highlight the difference between the teams — Nemo’s play being the more productive. But, to give Aghada credit, their effort never faltered and they were to be rewarded at the end — their supporters getting special satisfaction from an excellent goal initiated by Kilbane, and finished in style by O’Keeffe.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: A. Cronin 2-2; J. Masters 0-5 (0-3 frees); D. Kearney 1-1; P. Kerrigan (free) and D. Mehigan 0-1 each.
Aghada: T. O’Keeffe 2-2 (0-1 free); C. Fleming 0-5 (0-4 frees).
B. Morgan; G. O’Shea, N. Geary, D. Breen; M. Cronin, D. Kavanagh, B. O’Regan; P. Morgan, M. McCarthy (capt); S. O’Brien, J. asters, P. Kerrigan; A. Cronin, D. Mehigan, D. Kearney.
E. Kennedy; B. Wall, B. Hennessy, B. Crowley; R. Power, P. Kilbane, K. O’Connor; A. Kelleher, T. O’Neill; V. Morrissey, R. Dwane, G. Melvin; T. O’Keeffe, J.P. O’Connor (capt), C. Fleming. Sub: C. Power for Morrissey (38th minute).
Michael Collins (Clonakilty).