They got the perfect start with a fourth-minute goal from a questionable penalty but the simple explanation for their victory was that, typically, they were much more effective in taking their scores in comparison to their opponents.
Apart from the penalty, given against full-back Shane Lannon for what looked like a decent challenge on Sean O’Brien, Stradbally had reason to question an umpiring decision early in the second half, when Michael Walsh was denied what looked like a point.
They also had centre-back Eddie Rockett red-carded near the end following an incident in which Nemo forward Barry O’Driscoll was injured by a high tackle and a melee - in which a Nemo team official was implicated - developed.
However, while making the point that ‘underdogs’ always need decisions to go their way, Stradbally manager Sean Aherne wasn’t critical of the refereeing.
“The penalty gave them a cushion for the rest of the game,’’ he admitted. “I felt at half time that Stradbally would have kicked on and done better. We didn’t, so you’d have to give credit to Nemo Rangers. The better team won on the day definitely.”
Nemo manager Eddie Kirwan was pleased with the way his team responded to the concession of a goal. “There’s a prevailing attitude we weren’t going to come unstuck this year after Drom Broadford two years ago, when we let ourselves down,’’ he said. “It wasn’t going to happen today. We have conceded goals in other games before, but we are very experienced. We don’t panic. We just got a few points and closed the game down.’’
Stradbally lived up to Kirwan’s rating of them as a ‘dogged’ team, and there was early evidence of that by the way in which they fought back quickly after the penalty was confidently converted by David Kearney, following on from the first of five first-half points from top scorer Paul Kerrigan.
With inter-county hurling star ‘Brick’ Walsh again linking up with John Coffey as effectively at midfield as he had done in the quarter-final against Doonbeg, Stradbally hit back with three points in as many minutes.
Interestingly, while two of them came from centre-forward Shane Aherne, it was notable that he failed to score again. One of the main reasons was he didn’t get a chance to get the ball very often as the Nemo defence remained solid. Brian O’Regan never wilted in the centre and behind him Derek Kavanagh was always in control at the edge of the square.
Nemo settled into a rhythm and Kerrigan was hugely influential, both with impeccable free-taking and in general play. Additionally, David Niblock and Peter Morgan were much more involved around the middle of the field, meaning that Nemo dictated the play more or less for the second quarter to turn over 1-7 to 0-5 in front.
That lead was stretched to seven points with early scores from Kerrigan and William Morgan in the second half, following which Walsh’s ‘point’ wasn’t given after the referee consulted with his umpires. The visitors remained competitive, but their difficulty in penetrating in any serious manner limited progress until a brilliant move involving Shane Aherne, Tony Grey and Walsh ended with Robert Aherne scoring a perfect goal in the 42nd minute.
Crucially, Niall Curran missed a scorable free two minutes later and so, instead of having to cope with a three-points deficit, Stradbally saw the lead increase to five after Barry O’Driscoll put over a great score in the 47th minute.
Nemo were as good as sure of their place in the final after that before Kerrigan and Alan Morgan added further scores near the end.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: P. Kerrigan 0-7 (four frees); D. Kearney 1-1 (penalty goal); D. Niblock, W. Morgan, B. O’Driscoll (free) and A. Morgan 0-1 each.Scorers for Stradbally: R. Aherne 1-0; N. Curran 0-3 (two frees); S. Aherne (0-2).
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan (capt.); D. Breen, D. Kavanagh, C. O’Shea; C. O’Brien, B. O’Regan, A. O’Reilly; P. Morgan, D. Niblock; P. Kerrigan, A. Cronin, W. Morgan; B. O’Driscoll, S. O’Brien, D. Kearney. Subs: J. Masters for O’Driscoll (injured, 57); A. Morgan for W. Morgan (59); M. Dorgan for Niblock (62).STRADBALLY: O. Costelloe; A. Doyle, S. Lannon, T. Costelloe; J. Hearne, E. Rockett, T. Grey; M. Walsh, J. Coffey; S. Cunningham, S. Aherne, T. Connors; R. Aherne, N. Curran, T. Curran.Subs: P. Doyle for S. Cunningham (37); P. Weldon for Herne (50).Referee: Pádraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).