Whatever prospect a young and comparatively inexperienced Ilen Rovers team had of gaining a quarter-final place in the Cork SFC more or less evaporated with the concession of two early goals in the rain in Bandon on Saturday.
After a competitive opening quarter, during which scores were twice level, Nemo gained an important advantage – psychologically and on the scoreboard – and never looked back.
Nemo’s only negative was a serious injury to centre-forward Ciaran Dalton in the very first minute, with manager Steven O’Brien admitting afterwards: “It could be a cruciate ligament, we are disgusted for him. It was a horrible start to the game, especially when we were down numbers. It was a horrible night, anything could have happened.”
It was noteworthy that Alan Cronin, Luke Connolly and Brian O’Regan were absentees, while David Niblock was a late withdrawal (being replaced by Conor Horgan).
“Ilen were on top in the first ten or fifteen minutes,” added the Nemo boss. “They had plenty of chances of scores but didn’t get them. We were lucky we got our two goals. One was probably flukey enough and that gave us the real cushion. But, after half-time you wouldn’t say we were a way better team. They came at us hard in the first ten minutes of the second half again, but they couldn’t get back at that goal.”
With the light fading through the second half, O’Brien admitted that he would have been more concerned ‘if it was a tight game.’ “It was getting dangerous, to be honest with you. It was getting very dark in the last ten minutes.”
Ilen’s manager Johnny Holland’s real disappointment with the outcome was that the West Cork men didn’t do themselves justice. “We were carrying a few injuries and while we were comfortable enough in the first quarter, the second and third goals kind of opened up a gap which we didn’t want to happen,” he commented.
“Basically, as we said all the year, we are a team in transition. We had a lot of young fellows out there. Bar one or two they are all very young. It’s a learning experience.”
Dan MacEoin, their top performer, scored the opening point in the 5th minute but was cancelled out by Jack Horgan shortly afterwards. Then, after Conor Horgan got the first of the Nemo goals in the 8th minute — the opening made by the influential Paul Kerrigan — the West Cork side recovered to draw level with two well-kicked points by Kevin O’Sullivan and the equaliser from MacEoin.
However, all of their scores came from placed balls and the game was nearing the three-quarters stage when a powerfully kicked goal from MacEoin provided their first score from play. That was a reward for his determined play and the stubborn resistance of the team overall in the face of a dominant Nemo midfield and a much more creative attack, which had them ahead 3-4 to 0-5 at the break.
Barry O’Driscoll demonstrated his ability with a second goal late in the game, Dylan Mehigan won a lot of possession, James Masters was regularly on the ball and had a hand in two of the goals and team captain Kerrigan showed his class all through alongside the consistent Peter Morgan.
It was to Ilen Rovers’ credit that they never relaxed their effort – midfielders Peadar and Conor O’Driscoll being among their more prominent players – and Dan MacEoin’s impact on the play was reflected in a tally of 1-6.
However, the reality was that, because of a lack of penetration up front, they never gave promise of being able to recover. And it was noteworthy that Nemo could afford the luxury of 15 wides over the two halves.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: B. O’Driscoll 2-1; C. Horgan and D. Mehigan 1-1 each; J. Horgan 0-3; P. Kerrigan (0-1 free) and P. Morgan 0-2 each; J. Masters 0-1 free.
Scorers for Ilen Rovers: D. MacEoin 1-6 (0-4 frees, 0-1 ’45); K. O’Sullivan 0-2 frees; C. O’Driscoll 0-1.
NEMO RANGERS: M.A. Ó Mairtín; S. McKeown, K. Fulignati, A. O’Reilly; C. O’Brien, S. Cronin, A. O’Donovan; P. Kerrigan (capt.), P. Morgan; D. Mehigan, C. Dalton, J. Horgan; B. O’Driscoll, J. Masters, C. Horgan.
Sub: W. Morgan for Dalton (inj 1st min).
ILEN ROVERS: G. Coakley; P. Hickey, P. Minihane, A. Hassett; M. Hellem, T. O’Regan (capt.), T. Bushe; P. O’Driscoll, Conor O’Driscoll; S. O’Donovan, A. Holland, K. O’Sullivan; D. MacEoin, D. Coughlan, C. Harrington.
Subs: D. O’Donovan for Minihane (7); Cian O’Driscoll for Harrington (38).
Referee: J. Ryan (Macroom).