Nemo Rangers had to draw on all their experience to overcome tiny west Cork club, Ilen Rovers, in a closely-fought Cork SFC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
Nemo completed their second three-in--a-row this decade but, for three quarters of an encounter that ebbed and flowed and replete with fine scores, Ilen were on the verge of achieving something historic when moving 0-8 to 0-5 clear, thanks to Brian O'Sullivan's third point in the 42nd minute.
But with Cork senior captain Derek Kavanagh exerting control around midfield when moved from his full back position and Paul Kerrigan shining up front, Nemo scored seven of their final total in the final quarter.
It was heartbreak for an Ilen side that just seven years ago plied their trade in junior ranks. For all their bravery and industry, they couldn't match Nemo's stunningly conceived final twenty minutes of football when the champions discovered another gear to subdue the never-say-die challenge of the championship's minnows.
The Nemo conveyor belt of talent continues to churn out an array of talented youngsters and, on an afternoon when Cork star James Masters could only muster a point from a free, Paul Kerrigan stepped into the limelight. Kerrigan is sure to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy, and play for Cork and Paul's splendid seven points were crucial in the final analysis.
Kavanagh played a leader's part especially in the second half and in an area of the field where Ilen had enjoyed plentiful possession. Kavanagh, along with Seán O'Brien and the excellent David Niblock, showed all their know-how in tight situations to help bring the Andy Scannell Cup back to Nemo for a record 16th time.
Both sides had already clashed in the first round of the championship when Nemo dished out a 3-20 to 1-11 hammering to Ilen but the latter made it through the back-door to yesterday's absorbing final, proving a different proposition to the champions on this occasion.
The sides were level twice inside ten minutes with David Coughlan's angled effort the pick of an exciting opening period that saw the west Cork side gain a stranglehold around midfield. Kerrigan did land two frees by the 14th minute, but from that point until half time Ilen were inspired. Brothers Kevin and Brian O'Sullivan proved a handful for an overworked Nemo defence during a period when the game was held up for three minor scuffles. When Brian O'Sullivan took a sweet pass from Cork senior Kevin in the 30th minute, the former converted to hand Ilen a 0-6 to 0-4 half time lead.
And although Nemo monopolised possession from the restart, their only reward was a 34th minute point from Kerrigan. Ilen attacked in waves with John Wycherly a colossus around the midfield and two more sweet efforts from Brian O'Sullivan pushed Ilen 0-8 to 0-5 in front on 42 minutes.
But a resilient Nemo showed the mark of champions in the closing quarter, producing a stunning sequence of play that brought them seven points. Although Kevin O'Sullivan made it a one point game on 26 minutes, Alan Cronin and Kerrigan added two injury time scores to settle the issue.
Scorers -- Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan 0-7, 4f; A Cronin 0-2; S O'Brien, P Morgan and D Kavanagh 0-1 each. Ilen Rovers: K O'Sullivan (0-1f) and B O'Sullivan 0-3 each; D Coughlan, J Wycherly (free) and E Sheehy 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS -- B Morgan; N Geary, D Kavanagh, B O'Regan; G Murphy, G O'Shea, C O'Brien; M Cronin, M McCarthy; A Cronin, D Niblock, S O'Brien; P Kerrigan, J Masters, D Kearney. Subs: P Morgan for D Kearney and D Mehigan for M McCarthy (both ht); M Daly for O'Brien (42).
ILEN ROVERS -- G Coakley; S Holland, D Duggan, J Sheehy; C O'Driscoll, L O'Driscoll, K Daly; F Collins, D Coughlan; F O'Donovan, D Whooley, E Sheehy; D Duggan, K O'Sullivan, B O'Sullivan. Subs: D Whooley for Wycherly (51); A Holland for O'Donovan (57); S Casey for Wycherly (inj 58); B Duggan for Coughlan (inj 60 +5).
Ref -- G Sweeney (Glenville).