Nemo far from a spent force

Nemo Rangers 0-12 Ballincollig 1-7

The county champions gave that short shrift with the kind of Cork SFC first round victory that can bond and galvanise a squad into believing anything is possible.

Facing the form team in the Kelleher Shield on a dog-rotten night with a number of raw recruits handed starting berths might not have been the most appetising scenario for most teams, but Nemo did what Nemo do – rolled up their sleeves and got busy doing whatever way they had to.

It’s what champions do.

Ballincollig will have better days in the competition, but they delivered an under-par display here which again underlined the absence of a go-to forward in their ranks. They are no different to a number of other senior club sides around the city that desperately lack the decisive cutting edge. Though they finished within a score of the Trabeg men, a better illustration of the game is served by the 0-12 to 0-6 scoreline with six minutes remaining.

John Kelly’s low, drilled free to the Nemo net on 54 minutes gave Ballincollig hope, but a repeat was beyond Kelly in the third minute of injury time, with his piledriver deflected over bar.

With retirements (Derek Kavanagh), absentees (James Masters) and injuries (Ciarán O’Shea, David Niblock), Nemo coach Eddie Kirwan has been using the County League to progress nascent talent such as attacker Luke Connolly and defender Alan Cronin Jnr.

Neither let him down on Saturday, with Connolly claiming two points. Midfielders Peter Morgan and Dylan Mehigan powered their way through a first-half in which Nemo battened down the hatches into the teeth of a strong wind and pouring rain. Amazingly they took a 0-6 to 0-5 advantage into the interval.

“To go in at half-time ahead was one against the head for us,” reflected Kirwan. “They talk about great Nemo performances in the past but that first half was superb. They were absolutely brilliant.”

Ballincollig were less economical in possession, kicking six wides in that first-half and relying on the dynamism and athleticism of Pa Kelly to get them scores. The Cork all-rounder obliged twice, but was matched by his inter-county colleague in the opposition ranks, Paul Kerrigan. His second score was the highlight of the half, holding off all-comers to finish a solo run that began in his own half back line.

Kelly was at the end of a fine Ballincollig thread of possession in the first exchanges of the second-half to level things at 0-6 each, but within minutes Nemo had knocked it up a gear. A pair of Barry O’Driscoll frees and a ‘45’ were followed by points from the ever-industrious link man Alan Cronin and Sean O’Brien. Luke Connolly tacked on another and 48 minutes in, it was 0-12 to 0-6.

“The St Brigid’s game (in the All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final) was a huge disappointment, but these lads had been going for 31 weeks,” said the coach.

“Our only mindset is to win, and maybe now we’ll give them a break in preparation for six of seven weeks hence. I won’t say we’re a team in transition, but we are in a period where we need to look at players during the League (Kelleher Shield, where Nemo have already lost three times). Yes, we’ve lost some players,” added Kirwan, “but we’ve gained many young players.”

Scorers for Nemo Rangers: B O’Driscoll (0-5, 4 frees, one 45), L. Connolly (one free), P. Kerrigan (0-2 each), J. Kerins, A. Cronin, S. O’Brien (0-1 each).

Scorers for Ballincollig: J. Kelly (1-1), P. Kelly (0-3, one free), F. Keohane (free), B. Cotter, N. Ahern (0-1 each).

NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; S. McKeown, A. O’Reilly, A. Cronin Jnr; C. O’Brien, B. O’Regan, B. Twomey; P. Morgan, D. Mehigan; J. Kerins, A. Cronin, P. Kerrigan; B. O’Driscoll, S. O’Brien, L. Connolly.

BALLINCOLLIG: D. Lordan; B. Fitzgerald, N. Galvin, R. O’Driscoll; JP Murphy, S. O’Donoghue, L. Jennings; P. Kelly, C. O’Connor; K. Hickey, B. Cotter, B. Kelly; F. Keohane, J. Kelly, N. Allen.

Sub: C. O’Sullivan for Hickey (ht).

Referee: J. Bermingham (Bride Rovers)

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