Such was the poverty of opposition, one is somewhat reluctant to make any pronouncements regarding the likelihood of Paul O’Donovan’s city charges ending this shortened season as back-to-back Cork champions.
But even allowing for how poor Bishopstown were Saturday, it was impossible not to be impressed by Nemo as they made sure of their place in the knockout stages.
Capturing in a nutshell Nemo's dominance was their ability to outscore Bishopstown by 1-7 to 0-1 when operating with a man less from the 40th minute onward. Conor O’Donovan was the player ordered off, the half-time sub receiving a straight red card for his alleged involvement in a dust-up that saw two other players booked.
Working our way back from the top, Mark Cronin’s kicking was a real treat in this his first senior championship game of the summer. The 2019 All-Ireland U20 winner missed Nemo’s opener because of injury, but his return to fitness and form was spelled out during last Tuesday’s Seandún quarter-final against St Michael’s, Cronin landing 2-7 as Nemo’s third team won through by three.
He followed that 2-7 with 1-4 here, 1-2 of his tally arriving during a four-minute period around the three-quarter mark. His goal was a thing of beauty, cantering, as he did, through the heart of the opposition defence before planting the ball into the top right corner of Ken O'Halloran’s goal.
Cronin’s green flag left it 2-11 to 0-5, providing confirmation, though we didn't exactly need it, that it was game over.
Luke Connolly and Paul Kerrigan, as ever, sprayed possession around to good effect, the latter delivering the pass of the evening when putting centre-back Stephen Cronin inside the cover for their opening major on 22 minutes.
Add in the point apiece from Kevin O’Donovan and Jack Horgan, and we arrive at the telling piece of information that Nemo’s half-back line kicked more from play than their opponents.
It was a difficult evening for Bishopstown. They had started brightly, points from Odie Devlin, Brian Clifford (could have been a goal but for a fine Micheál Aodh Martin save), and Dara Costelloe putting them into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead eight minutes in.
Their problem was that this early burst represented the beginning and end of their challenge. They wouldn’t score again for another 17 minutes and they also went the first 25 minutes of the second period without adding to their tally. Their one and only score of the second-half was a converted ‘45 from ‘keeper Ken O’Halloran. Indeed, they had O’Halloran to thank that the final margin in this Group C fixture was not even greater than 17 points as he produced three fine saves. This second defeat ends Bishopstown's hopes of advancing beyond the group stage.
“I am quite pleased with where we are at,” remarked Nemo boss Paul O’Donovan. “We are not shooting the lights out or anything like that, but we are still on an upward curve and hopefully we'll keep going up the right side of it.
“What was key to tonight's game is that we controlled the middle eight. In football, if you can control the middle eight, the ball is only going one way, it isn't going the other way.
“I thought our full-back line coped with everything that went into them. Bishopstown only got three points from play so that's a good evening's work for our defence.
“Bishopstown were punching on their kick out early on, we were pushing up for the break but the ball was being deflected on. It caught us once or twice. But once we reacted to that, we controlled the break and controlled the middle eight from then on.”
He added: “This was an improvement on our first game at Cloughduv. We felt there that we gave the ball away easily, we carried the ball into the tackle, we got turned over. Tonight, we kept the ball a lot better, we moved the ball a lot better. The lads inside in the full-forward line showed very well.”
Nemo videoed Saturday's game and the manager said once the footage is reviewed, they will make a call as to whether they appeal Conor O'Donovan's red.
L Connolly (0-8, 0-6 frees); M Cronin (1-4, 0-1 free); S Cronin (1-0); P Kerrigan (0-2); B Murphy, J Horgan, K O’Donovan (0-1 each).
K O’Halloran (0-1, ‘45), J O’Sullivan (0-1, mark), O Devlin (0-1, free), S Collins, D Costelloe, B Clifford (0-1 each).
MA Martin; B Cripps, K Histon, A Cronin; K O’Donovan, S Cronin, J Horgan; P Morgan, J McDermott; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; M Cronin, L Connolly, C Horgan.
: C O’Donovan for B O’Driscoll (HT); B Murphy for Morgan (50).
: K O’Halloran; D Quaid, J O’Sullivan, S O’Rourke; D Lester, M Power, E Byrne; P O’Flynn, J Murphy; B Clifford, E Deasy, D Costelloe; O Devlin, L O’Driscoll, S Collins.
: N Gough for L O’Driscoll (22); M Oakes for Devlin (HT); M Noonan for O’Sullivan (36); M Driscoll for Collins (51); J Costello for D Costelloe (60).
: D Murnane.