It’s strange territory for a Nemo team to head into the last four under the radar. This isn’t a vintage Nemo side, either, merely a work-in-progress, but with the potential to be close to the finished product come the October bank holiday weekend, when medals are being handed out.
Having lived in the shadow of Castlehaven, Carbery Rangers and Ballincollig in recent seasons, Nemo are rebuilding with renewed energy.
What’s the difference this season? “Our fitness”, says O’Brien’s right-hand man, Colin Corkery. “The players have had a continual run of training together, and the run of recent games has maintained our fitness levels”.
“As a management group, this is our third year involved. We’re blooding new players, too, over the last few seasons. We have had to do that, and, combined with the older lads who are staying match-fit, we are where we are.”
They sit in a very good place. St Nick’s had no answer to Nemo’s power-plays, which were built on methodical approach-play, slick passing and a clinical eye for goals.
Cork senior Paul Kerrigan hit the net three times, and he and James Masters and Barry O’Driscoll were a triumvirate of attacking aces. They are certain to cause the Carbery Rangers’ defence problems in the semi-final.
It’s a measure of Nemo’s strength in depth that someone of the calibre of Conor Horgan came off the bench to score 1-2, in an eight-minute spell in the second-half, while David Niblock, Dylan Mehigan, Tomás Ó Sé and Ciaran Dalton were other impressive performers in a near-flawless Nemo team display.
The margin of Nemo’s victory must be measured against the poverty of the opposition. Much more was expected of a St Nick’s side that eliminated both Clonakilty and Dohenys, en route to the quarter-finals. And, while they may be masters at digging out victories in tight games, when faced with the scoring machine that is Nemo then Nick’s had no answers.
The northside club were held scoreless in the first-half, managing just one shot at target, which dropped into Michael A Martin’s hands, while, at the other end, Nemo were ruthless in front of goal, hitting the net four times: in the seventh and 26th minutes and twice on the half-hour mark.
Kerrigan’s goal blitz came in that four-minute spell before the break. His first: a long ball from Tomás Ó Sé, and an audacious hand pass from James Masters into his path, which Kerrigan finished clinically. He added his second and third on the half-hour, the last courtesy of a diagonal long-ball from Ó Sé, from the right wing, and, standing in isolation, Kieran McEnery had no hope when Kerrigan unleashed a powerful strike from 10 metres.
It stood 4-3 to 0-0 at the break, with a ragged Nick’s aiming to salvage some pride on the turnover.
They landed their first point on 40 minutes, Barry O’Donovan’s effort sandwiched between periods of complete domination and wonderful point-scoring from a rampant Nemo, where James Masters — despite landing only a point — pulled all the strings up front, like an American-football quarter-back.
The winner’s fifth goal was the product of another dangerous run by Masters, whose fisted effort struck the upright, but the talented Conor Horgan pounced on the rebound to score a goal.
Robert McCarthy Coade added his side’s third, on 55 minutes, before this one-sided contest petered out with points from Kerrigan and the hardworking David Niblock.
P Kerrigan (3-3, 1f); C Horgan (1-2); B O’Driscoll (1-1); C Dalton (0-2); J Masters, L Connolly (‘45’) and D Niblock (0-1) each.
B O’Donovan (0-2, 1f); R McCarthy-Coade (0-1f).
M Martin; A O’Reilly, C O’Shea, D O’Donovan; S Martin, T Ó Sé, A Cronin; D Niblock, A O’Donovan; C O’Brien, B O’Driscoll, D Mehigan; J Masters, C Dalton, P Kerrigan.
L Connolly for O’Brien (ht); C Horgan for O’Driscoll (44); B Twomey for Mehigan (47); J Donovan for O’Reilly (50).
K McEnery; K Spain, D Óg O’Donovan, T Spain; A Lynch, K McCarthy-Coade, D Cunningham; P O’Brien (capt.), R Brosnan; David Brosnan, Dean Brosnan, G Callanan; E Kearney, B O’Donovan, D Busteed.
L Coughlan for Dean Brosnan (black card, 29); R McCarthy-Coade for D Óg O’Donovan and D Dunlea for K McCarthy-Coade (both 38); J Morrissey for David Brosnan and G Kennefick for Kearney (both 50); C McCarthy for B O’Donovan (53).
C Lane (Banteer).