In the first half, Nemo profited from Douglas’s wastefulness in front of goal – eight wides and two spurned goal chances – to build a 1-8 to 0-3 interval lead. Having come from four points down to draw the first game, it looked like they were set to coast to victory as Douglas appeared to still be lamenting their missed opportunity.
Despite being without Eoin Cadogan, who has an Achilles injury, they came roaring back upon the resumption and kicked seven of the eight points scored between the 31st and 46th minutes to cut the gap to just two points. As their manager Tony Leen put it, however, they “ran out of legs” and Nemo steadied themselves to push on again and book a quarter-final meeting with St Nicholas.
“They missed a very good goal chance in the first half and three or four kickable points, so the half-time score was an unfair reflection,” accepted Nemo manager Steven O’Brien. “They thundered into the second half and caught us wide open, so we have to go back to the drawing board and see what happened there.” O’Brien’s Douglas counterpart Leen was proud of his players, feeling that they had just left themselves too much to do.
“People might say that it’s the cliché of leaving it behind us the first day but we felt we were ready to take it up a gear,” he said. “We missed a few great chances in the first half and Nemo were going down the other end and popping over point after point. That sucked a bit of life and confidence out of the lads. For 15 minutes of the second half, you could see that belief was back, but ultimately I think we just ran out of legs.”
In the drawn game, Douglas had opened up a 0-6 to 0-0 lead before Cadogan’s black card and Nemo were clearly keen to avoid a repeat of that. Inside 16 minutes, they were 0-8 to 0-1 in front, Paul Kerrigan setting the tone with a point after 29 seconds. David Niblock excelled at midfield and the attacks flowed, with Barry O’Driscoll scoring and creating while Dylan Mehigan was also industrious.
Twice, Luke McGrath might have goaled for Douglas when a green flag would have injected them with confidence. In the sixth minute Micheál Martin saved well and then on 13 minutes, Seán Powter’s good run teed him up but he pulled his effort wide.
David Hanrahan brought Douglas back to within six points on 22 but four minutes after that Nemo struck for a goal. Mehigan won a break 25 yards out and his run attracted defenders, allowing him to pass to the unmarked Ciarán Dalton, who finished well.
Alan Cadogan had the last score of the half and, while an eight-point margin looked insurmountable, Douglas set about their task.
Cadogan got his third right after the restart after a good run and then Powter pointed to indicate that there might be signs of life. When Johnny Lane, Powter and Philip Shine all scored in quick succession, the gap was down to a goal and even though James Masters had a Nemo reply – the game’s first score from a placed ball, 44 minutes in – the momentum stayed with Douglas as Conor Kingston and then Cadogan, from a very tight angle, closed the gap to just two points.
This time round, though, they couldn’t engineer a goal chance and Nemo, as is their wont, never panicked. Between the 46th and 51st minutes, Alan Cronin, Niblock and sub Conor Horgan eased them five clear again to kill off their neighbours’ challenge. St. Nick’s lie in wait for Nemo in a fortnight as the Trabeg side seek a first title since 2010. For Douglas, it’s a case of out but not down. “I would argue that, if we perform, we’re as good as anybody, but we’re very young,” Leen said. “This is only year two of a three-year plan, we’ve brought on a hell of a lot of young lads and the only way they’ll get the necessary experience to win things is through games like this.”
P Kerrigan (0-4, 2 frees), B O’Driscoll, J Masters (1 free) (0-3 each), C. Dalton (1-0), A Cronin, D Niblock, A O’Donovan, D Mehigan, C Horgan (0-1 each).
A Cadogan (0-4), S Powter (0-2), P Shine, J Lane, D Hanrahan, G Griffin (free), C Kingston (0-1 each).
M Martin; A O’Reilly, C O’Shea, D O’Donovan; A Cronin, T Ó Sé, S Martin; D Niblock, A O’Donovan; C O’Brien, B O’Driscoll, D Mehigan; J Masters, P Kerrigan, C Dalton.
J Donovan for S Martin (41); C Horgan for C O’Brien (42); S O’Brien for Masters (53); B Twomey for Mehigan (57); W Morgan for O’Driscoll (59).
B Boyle; K Hayes-Curtin, S Fogarty, J Collins; P Shine, K Flahive, J Lane; D Hanrahan, C Kingston; É Mulrooney, S Powter, A Cadogan; M Dolan, L McGrath, G Griffin.
J Davis for McGrath (23), C Dineen for Mulrooney, E O’Sullivan for Dolan (both half-time), A Ward for Shine (46).
E Sheehy (Newcestown)