The ambition as always, according to manager Paul O’Donovan, is for Nemo Rangers to win a county every year, and Cork football’s standard-bearers restarted their seasonal quest with a deserved victory over gallant Dohenys in Brinny on Saturday.
Possessing a wealth of talent in an impressive forward line and with the injured trio of Kevin and Alan O’Donovan, and Kevin Fulignati to filter back into the squad in the coming weeks, Nemo are into the quarter-final open draw with a squad capable of going all the way.
“When you’re involved in Nemo, it’s win the county or nothing — that’s the way it is,” said O’Donovan afterwards.
“We were disappointed last year, when we went out meekly in the quarter final. Our goal really is to atone for that.”
O’Donovan added: “With the league over, it’s difficult to get challenge matches, and you’re looking outside the county for a challenge because you’re fearful of playing a team you may end up playing in the next round. We only just have the Cork players back. We had one game, basically one challenge match with everyone available so we just have to get more games.”
The foundation for Nemo’s victory was laid in the first half and, by the 35th minute, they had pushed out their lead to 11 points (1-12 to 0-4). Showing pride and resilience, Dohenys, however, outscored their opponents 1-5 to 0-2 and departed the championship with the comforting knowledge that they belong.
With recent minor success now feeding into their top team (and an average age of 22) the future is looking bright for the Dunmanway club that among its young contingent is 2019 All-Ireland U20 winner, Fionn Herlihy who accumulated a personal haul of 1-4.
Had Dohenys converted three first-half goal opportunities the narrative of this game might have changed significantly. As it was, Micheál Aodh Martin showed his credentials to deny Jack O’Connell two goal opportunities. And in the opening 10 minutes — when Dohenys had Nemo’s defence in a spin — the West Cork men lacked composure in front of the sticks.
Nemo trailed 0-3 to 0-2 after 10 minutes. A hard-running, efficient Dohenys — where their inside forward line of Keith White, Jack O’Connell, and Fionn Herlihy looked dangerous — signalled that Nemo were in a battle to quell the West Cork attack.
History tells us that Nemo don’t do panic and from the 10th minute until half-time they transitioned into a higher gear. Aidan O’Reilly and Steven Cronin began to command the defence and their playmaking half-forward line of Luke Connolly, Paul Kerrigan, and Colin O’Brien also impressed.
Clever interplay between Kerrigan and Mark Cronin saw the former palm a 14th-minute goal to the Dohenys net.
On top in midfield where Peter Morgan and James McDermott were edging a mighty battle for supremacy against Johnny Kelly and Cathal O’Donovan, Nemo steamed forward and picked off their points with aplomb through Colin O’Brien, Kerrigan, and Luke Connolly before Dohenys registered their first score in 24 minutes through a 45 from goalkeeper Stephen Daly.
It stood 1-8 to 0-4 at half-time and, when Nemo reopened in flying fashion with points from Kerrigan (free) and three from the excellent Conor Horgan, Dohenys looked in serious trouble. However, the West Cork side worked tirelessly for the remainder of the game, getting their rewards with points from White, Herlihy, and a mammoth free from Daly before excellent play from Johnny Kelly in setting up Cullan Barry for a goal chance saw the latter pulled down in the square.
Herlihy belied his young years to slot coolly past Martin. And, minutes later, Dohenys might have had a second major when Kelly saw his shot saved again by Martin.
Nemo move on with county glory on their radar; Dohenys will continue to rebuild.
“We’re trying to instill that into them that there is something to look forward to,” said Dohenys manager Denis Healy.
“We came into this game today and nobody gave us a prayer. We weren’t mentioned in a newspaper, radio station, or anything — that is fine, we have to earn our crust, but I do believe in this group of players. They’re young, and if they stay together, there’s a future there.”
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan (1-4, 2f); C Horgan (0-4); B O’Driscoll (frees), C O’Brien and L Connolly (free) (0-2 each).
Scorers for Dohenys: F Herlihy (1-4, 1-0 pen; 2f); J O’Connell and S Daly (1 ‘45’, 1f) (0-2 each); K White (0-1).
M.A. Martin; B Murphy, A O’Reilly, A Cronin; S Martin, S Cronin, B Cripps; P Morgan, J McDermott; L Connolly, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; M Cronin, B O’Driscoll, C Horgan.
Subs: J Horgan for Murphy (inj. 43).
S Daly; D Rice, S Daly, J O’Farrell; B O’Donovan, E Lavers, D O’Connor; J Kelly, C O’Donovan; N Hurley, B Murphy, J Carroll; K White, J O’Connell, F Herlihy.
Subs: C Barry for Hurley (37); C Daly for Carroll (40); S O’Donovan for O’Connell (52).
Referee: J Ryan (Macroom).