In winning eight Cork SFC titles since 2000, Nemo Rangers have always tended to win semi-finals when they got there.
The perceived wisdom goes that the quarter-final is the time to catch them and a West Cork team in a West Cork venue are the perfect saboteurs. All three of those elements were present in Dunmanway on Saturday, but still it is the city side who march on to the last four.
Nemo certainly won’t be short of the clichéd room for improvement ahead of their semi-final tie with either Muskerry or Ballincollig. They had 12 wides and should have had at least two more goals, but the bottom line was that they did enough, especially in the crucial stages, which pleased Nemo manager Steven O’Brien.
“Their previous results had been good and there was nothing in it in the first-half. We went up six points and let in a silly goal and they had other chances, Micheál Aodh [Martin] made some great saves in fairness,” he said.
“Their kickout strategy was good and we struggled but we went in leading and then the lads worked their socks off in the second-half. We fought hard and that made sure we got over the line.”
There were certainly bright spots for the Trabeg side, however. James Masters struck 1-4 and goalkeeper Martin was excellent. Sean McKeown and Alan O’Donovan impressed in defence, and so did full-back Kevin Fulignati, who made a priceless block on the line from Thomas Hegarty in the 48th minute. Nemo led 1-10 to 1-6 at that stage and a second Skibb goal would have given them huge momentum.
As it was, Nemo captain Paul Kerrigan – who had linked well with Peter Morgan at midfield but was now freed to centre-forward – sent over three points in double-quick time with their Skibbereen opponents only mustering a response from David Shannon. That was their only point which didn’t come from the boot of the lively Kevin Davis, indicative of the travails they endured in front of goal.
To give Skibb credit, though, early on it appeared as if they would only have a bit-part to play in Nemo’s procession. Not even 90 seconds had elapsed before Masters found the net, gathering the ball from Kerrigan’s delivery and turning and shooting almost in one single movement past Ryan Price.
Further points followed from Barry O’Driscoll and Masters (two) and while Skibb were showing themselves to be able to get through the Nemo defence, their shooting was not up to scratch.
They got a lifeline in the 14th minute though, as Davis’s ball across goal was parried by Martin and Colin Crowley was able to scramble to the net. Buoyed by that, and with Nemo having lost Colin O’Brien to a black card, Rossa were within a point after Donal Óg Hodnett set up Davis for a well-taken point.
Masters responded with a Nemo free and they might have moved five clear but for a fine Price save from O’Driscoll following a knifing Kerrigan run, but William Morgan ensured that they led by 1-6 to 1-3 at half-time.
Again Skibb came back at the outset of the second-half, Davis pointing twice, but then Nemo found a purple patch. Masters, Jack Horgan, O’Donovan and O’Driscoll all scoring. They still passed up chances to put the issue beyond doubt though as Peter Morgan blasted wide and O’Driscoll was denied by a Price double-save, ensuring that Skibb just about remained in it.
Davis, fed by Hegarty, deftly cut the gap to four again, and had they managed to find that second goal then maybe Nemo’s defences might have weakened. As so often before, they didn’t allow that to happen and now they are one step away from yet another final.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: J Masters (1-4, two frees), P Kerrigan (0-3), B O’Driscoll (0-2), A O’Donovan, J Horgan, L Connolly, W Morgan (0-1 each).
Scorers for O’Donovan Rossa: K Davis (0-7, 5fs), C Crowley (1-0), D Shannon (0-1).
NEMO RANGERS: M Martin; S McKeown, K Fulignati, D O’Donovan; C O’Brien, A Cronin, A O’Donovan; P Morgan, P Kerrigan; D Mehigan, W Morgan, J Horgan; J Masters, B O’Driscoll, L Connolly.
Subs: C O’Shea for O’Brien (22, bc), C Horgan for W Morgan (46), D Niblock for Connolly (51).
O’DONOVAN ROSSA: R Price; R Hodnett, E Nealon, J Keohane; M Collins, C McCarthy, P Crowley; D Hazel, P Gilmore; R Long, K Davis, G Minihane; D Óg Hodnett, C Crowley, T Hegarty.
Subs: P Nealon for R Hodnett (9); D Shannon for Keohane (14); I Dinneen for C Crowley (38); S Carmody for P Crowley (48); S Crowley Jnr for McCarthy (53, bc).
Referee: C Lane (Lyre).