The foundation of Nemo Rangers’ victory over Duhallow in the final of the Cork SFC was very much laid in the first-half when the Capwell side hit 2-8 of their 2-10 total.
Unsurprisingly their manager, Paul O’Donovan, was incredibly satisfied by their start to the game.
“Yeah, we were fantastic in the first-half, even though we missed a couple of scores in the first ten minutes. I’m not sure when exactly we got the first goal but we got two of them in very quick succession and that set us up really for the second-half.”
The champions did fade out of the game in the second-half but O’Donovan explained that it was an improved Duhallow performance rather than any Nemo complacency that let the divisional outfit back into the game.
“They pushed up! There were times there when we were kicking out the ball and they were flooding our end of the field so that was a bit hairy. We needed to get the ball out, to win a ball and then try and get up the field. I thought we got up the field well a couple of times but we made poor choices.
“We carried the ball into the tackle a couple of times and we were in for goal chance near the end took the wrong option too. But look, we’ll take a win! Whether it was by one point or by twenty, it doesn’t matter. We’re happy to be going home with a county title.”
Even when the tide turned against them in the second period, they never panicked and key saves from Michéal Martin and an excellent block by Stephen Cronin meant that Duhallow got close, but never close enough.
“Micheál Martin’s two saves at the end were outstanding. He just proved his class yet again. But outside of those two saves, we pride ourselves on not giving away goal chances and we did defend very well.
Our blocking down was very good at times as well. For me, Stephen is the best club centre-back in Cork, without a shadow of a doubt, and he was outstanding as well today.
“I think we’d four U-21s on the field at the end and three of them are U-19, so that augurs well for the future. We won a minor three years ago, we won an U-21 last year, so there’s plenty of talent coming through. We’ve plenty of old-stagers as well who are still hanging in there and playing well but it’s good to get the blend right, that’s the most important thing.”
Nemo will never rest on their laurels for two long and thoughts will quickly turn to their Munster campaign which will kick off against Limerick champions, Newcastle West, in a fortnight’s time.
“We don’t know much about them so we’ll get some video footage and have a look at them. We’ll get some information on them, go through it. But it’s Munster championship and we’ll be playing the best team in Limerick so we’ll just go out and try and represent Cork as best we can.”
As they always do.
Meanwhile, the pain of losing consecutive finals was etched across the face of Duhallow manager, Padraig Kearns.
“Yeah, we played well in the second-half, but it’s a game of two halves and Nemo were at it for the first twenty minutes and they did to us what they do to a lot of teams. We knew it was coming and we set up man-for-man but it didn’t work out, so we went back to sweeping.
“But they were up ten points going in at half-time and it could have been thirteen or fourteen They missed two goals so we were lucky we weren’t down more at half-time.
“For the second-half then we said we’d just go at it and see where it took us. We said we’d try and win the second-half. It wasn’t meant to be.”
The nearly turned it around, but nearly is no good. A close defeat means regrets where as a larger margin of defeat can give clarity. Kearns knows which one he’d prefer.
“Nearly alright, but nearly is no good though. We were nearly there as well last year but that’s no good to me, it makes it worse really. You’d be better off being beaten by then points than being beaten by nearly.
But I’m proud of my players because they could have laid down at half-time, easily. But we gave them a game for the second-half, they only score two points I think so there’s a lot to take out of that but a lot to take out of it to where like?
“As a divisional team what are you going to learn? The management team will be different, there’ll be different players next year and with a divisional team you don’t know what you’ll have from week to week so you’ll actually learn nothing from it.”
Kearns’ players have been busy with their clubs. Kanturk lost the semi-final of the Cork PIFC alst weekend while Knocknagree play in the final of the Cork IFC next weekend. It could be offered as an excuse but Kearns didn’t think so. The game just was what it was.
“Watching the game, I thought the Kanturk boys were awesome in the second-half. Talking about last week is only an excuse, a cop out, if anyone says that. At the end of the day, Nemo beat us by four points and they were the better team on the night.”