And, it was notable that the player who scored it, team captain Sean O’Brien, was forced off a few minutes later because it added to injury problems which denied them eight starting players.
It was little consolation to Douglas - inspired at various stages by Cork representatives Eoin Cadogan and Eoin Cotter and leading scorer Mark Harrington — that they pushed their neighbours so closely. The fact is that unforced errors – one led directly to the concession of the goal – cost them vital scores.
With the experienced Derek Kavanagh, David Niblock, Brian O’Regan and Barry O’Driscoll among the absentees, the Nemo management welcomed back James Masters for his first game since last season’s All-Ireland club semi-final. Understandably, while he never approached anything near his full potential, he was still a constant threat.
Starting in torrential rain, the opening score fell to Douglas captain John Lane. And, after Masters converted a fifth minute ‘45, he again cancelled out a well-worked Finbarr Desmond score in the 11th. After that came a period of Nemo dominance which produced 1-2 in less than three minutes and which, ultimately, was to spearhead the champions’ march to a quarter-final tie against the winners of the Aghada/Avondhu replay.
The goal resulted from a handling error at half-back and it saw Alan Cronin quickly transfer the ball down the right wing to Luke Connolly, who in turn made the opening for Sean O’Brien. Almost immediately the influential Cronin pointed and them midfielder Dylan Mehigan powered his way down the centre and added another.
That propelled them into a 1-4 to 0-2 lead and for a while Douglas struggled, in spite of good work at midfield by Eoin Cadogan, who found Peter Morgan a difficult opponent. While they had been unable to capitalise on some good approach work, they were boosted by a Mark Harrington point in the 25th minute. And, after he kicked two difficult frees, a magnificent score from play from near the left-hand corner gave them a huge uplift going in at half-time only a point in arrears, 1-4 to 0-6.
It set the scene for a closely contested second half where the sides were never separated by more than two points. Douglas benefited from the switch of Cotter to wing-back and from the introduction of Alan Barry at wing-forward, with Cadogan continuing to put in a huge effort. Conversely, Harrington saw much less of the ball as a result of Nemo tightening up in defence. And, they were further boosted when Paul Kerrigan was much more involved in the game, complementing the vital support play of Cronin.
Douglas ‘keeper Brian Boyle saved from Peter Morgan in the 41st minute, before excellent defending frustrated a Cadogan/Kevin Murphy move which promised a goal for Douglas shortly afterwards. They were within striking distance four times after the break, but an equaliser eluded them — most notably when Harrington tried from a free from far out on the right wing in injury time and his kick fell short.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: J. Masters 0-4 (0-1 ‘45); S. O’Brien 1-0; D. Mehigan, A. Cronin, P. Kerrigan and L. Connolly (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Douglas: M. Harrington 0-5 (0-3 frees); J. Lane, K. Murphy, J. Farrell, F. Desmond and A. Cadogan 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS: B. Morgan; S. McKeown, A. O’Reilly, P. Hogan; B. Twomey, C. O’Brien, D. Breen; P. Morgan, D. Mehigan; A. Cronin, P. Kerrigan, S. Marshall; J. Masters, S. O’Brien (capt.), L. Connolly.
Sub: A. Morgan for O’Brien (inj. 21).
DOUGLAS: B. Boyle; P. Shine, C. Hogan, E. Cotter; J. Lane (capt.). R. Murphy, J. Collins; E. Cadogan, C. Dineen; S. O’Connor, J. Farrell, O. Mulrooney; K. Murphy, M. Harrington, F. Desmond.
Subs: A. Barry for O’Connor (27); A. Cadogan for K. Murphy (50); S. McCarthy for Dineen (54).
Referee: Niall Barrett (Carrigtwohill).