Half right alright for Nemo

IT’S imperative to put on record that there was barely a wind in Mallow yesterday.

A draught if anything — but nothing close to a breeze.

The reason for the clarification is justified for anybody who didn’t witness Nemo Rangers claim their 15th Munster SFC club title on a two-point margin despite floating on a cushion of 13 going into the interval. But let’s head off any jump to conclusions that the elements were responsible for such a turnaround. In this case, they weren’t.

Sure, the much-hackneyed phrase “game of two halves” applied to this affair but not as anybody would know it.

After manufacturing arguably the most complete half of football seen in Munster club football for quite some time, Nemo were made to defend their astonishing advantage — and how.

In the first 16 minutes of the new half, Dr Crokes reeled off seven unanswered points and Nemo knees were quaking.

Admittedly, Kieran O’Leary’s goal three minutes into injury-time flattered the score-line but the margin was inconsequential to Cork champions. Glory was theirs.

“It’s not that we wanted to win by 13 points,” said Nemo manager Eddie Kirwan. “That’s irrelevant. The history books will say that we won and we’re the champions. Senior club football is never easy. They had their time and we had our time. We just made two points better of our time.”

In Kirwan’s mind, Nemo’s first-half went beyond compare. “It was as good as I’ve seen and it was a pleasure to be involved in that. We’ll have a peek at the second-half in the video. You flow sometimes and you don’t. And how you limit the opposition when you don’t flow (is crucial). We didn’t do it very well in the second-half but ultimately we came out just about.”

“Just about” is right but should we have been surprised that this tie would offer us up something so bizarre? This, after all, was a final that proved most reluctant to be played. Twice postponed before Christmas and with a venue this weekend changed with one day’s notice to Mallow from the Gaelic Grounds because of a frozen pitch, whatever could go wrong did go wrong.

And it didn’t stop in Limerick. Where this final went Jack Frost was sure to follow and throw-in was initially put back an hour to allow the Mallow turf recover from the overnight freeze.

Then it was delayed a further 30 minutes as the All-Ireland IFC semi-finalists couldn’t be separated over 60 minutes.

When matters finally got under way, the 4,226 Mallow crowd saw Nemo pulverise the opposition in the opening 30 minutes. With three unanswered points in the first three minutes, their intentions were made clear to all.

A Colm Cooper point in the 10th minute hardly upset their momentum as James Masters delivered a skill of old when he drove a drop-shot past Kieran Cremin. His blast was the end product of some sterling work from Sean O’Brien and Alan Cronin, true representatives of how tirelessly the Nemo forwards toiled to create as well as spoil in the first-half.

Cooper was finding Ciaran O’Shea a difficult marker although he did manage to find himself one-on-one with Briain Morgan in the 16th minute but was denied.

Cooper again freed himself up in the 18th minute to agonisingly fist the ball against the crossbar. From that, Nemo worked the ball up for a Barry O’Driscoll score, which put eight points between the teams.

The extent of Crokes’ problems became apparent when Cooper was reassigned to the centre with five minutes to go in the half as David Niblock and Paul Kerrigan led their markers on merry dances.

After Niblock exchanged points with O’Leary in the 23rd minute, Nemo rattled over six points without reply, the best of them Kerrigan’s close to the half-time whistle, a scintillating kick on the run after shaking off a couple of defenders.

Nemo weren’t just leading at half-time; they were out of sight — 1-13 to 0-3. Or so we thought. Less than a minute in, Ambrose O’Donovan glided one over and six more followed.

Having their 13-point lead more than halved with 14 minutes left, they were close to panic stations. The Crokes supporters found their voices and even though Nemo found their scoring boots again with points from O’Driscoll and Alan Cronin, they were cancelled out by Cooper and Casey efforts.

But in the end Kirwan’s side held out. A Brian Looney point and O’Leary’s goal had them shaking a bit but that first-half performance was just too good for Crokes to replicate.

Even allowing for more postponements, Nemo will be there or thereabouts again.

Scorers for Nemo Rangers: J Masters 1-3 (one free); P Kerrigan, B O’Driscoll (one free), A Cronin 0-3 each; D Niblock, D Breen, D Kearney 0-1 each.

Scorers for Dr Crokes: K O’Leary 1-4; D Casey (three frees) 0-3; C Cooper (one free) 0-2; A O’Donovan, E Brosnan, F Fitzgerald, B Looney 0-1 each.

Subs for Nemo Rangers: A Morgan for O’Driscoll (temp 7-14); A Morgan for Kearney (temp 29-30); D Mehigan for P Morgan (temp 41-42); A Morgan for Kerrigan (49); B Twomey for O’Driscoll (60).

Subs for Dr Crokes: F Fitzgerald for B McMahon (27); C Brady for Myers (h-t); S O’Neill for O’Donovan (59).

Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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