Kerrigan helps Nemo return to top of the pile
Nemo Rangers 2-10 St Finbarr's 1-8
NEMO RANGERS are the Cork champions for the eighth time in 11 years after they had five points to spare against local rivals St Finbarr's at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday.
Having been defeated at the quarter-final stage last year when attempting to win a fifth consecutive county title, this was a real statement from the Capwell club, claiming their 18th title in all.
While it was not a game bursting with brilliant attacking play, what was ultimately the crucial goal was a thing of beauty, as Barry O'Driscoll finished a move involving David Niblock, Alan Cronin, man-of-the-match Colin O'Brien and Sean O'Brien to push his side 2-9 to 1-7 clear with 16 minutes left.
With that goal coming hot on the heels of a brilliant save by Nemo goalkeeper Brian Morgan from St Finbarr's captain Jim O'Donoghue, it was the turning point, proving to be a blow that the Barrs could not recover from.
What will be so galling for the Togher club -- who also lost in last year's final, to Clonakilty -- is that they enjoyed an excellent start to the game, searing into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside the first 10 minutes.
Nemo were struggling in these early stages, not able to get enough quality possession as the Barrs defended well and kept possession.
In addition, corner-forward Jason Sexton was in excellent form, scoring the first two points, while Roy Leahy and Colin O'Sullivan were also on target.
Bar a tame Paul Kerrigan goal attempt which went wide in the fourth minute, Nemo were not threatening much but in the 15th minute they were level, William Morgan's sideline kick bouncing its way through to Kerrigan at the back post and his shot slithered through the legs of St Finbarr's goalkeeper Kevin McTiernan.
When David O'Callaghan and Alan Cronin added points immediately after that, it looked as if Nemo would power on, but St Finbarr's, despite wasting some chances, were still well in the game, which was beginning to get a bit niggly.
A lovely free from outside the '45' by Leahy cut the gap to just one point in the 22nd minute and then a point to match that in quality -- a sideline kick from the 20-metre line by Sexton -- tied things up again, 1-3 to 0-6.
Stung into action, however, Nemo responded strongly with three unanswered points, from O'Driscoll, Kerrigan -- with a rasping shot which had to be tipped over by McTiernan -- and O'Callaghan, giving them a cushion as the sides turned around.
Two quickfire points after the restart from midfielder Niblock -- who was excellent in the third quarter -- extended that lead before an excellent Kerrigan free made it 1-9 to 0-6 and the game looked to be slipping away from the Barrs.
They got their lifeline on 39 minutes, however, when Robert O'Mahony produced a great finish from a tight angle to leave just a goal in it and had O'Donoghue not been denied by Morgan shortly after that the sides would have been level.
While Leahy did convert the '45' that resulted from the save, O'Driscoll's goal killed any momentum accruing and though St Finbarr's defended well after that, they had only a Fionan Murray point to show for it at the other end.
Nemo, being able to call upon the services of Martin Cronin and James Masters from the bench, were finishing strongly, and a point from the impressive half-forward Alan Cronin wrapped things up with time running out.
Scorers -- Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan 1-3 (0-2f), B O'Driscoll 1-1, A Cronin, D Niblock, D Kearney 0-2 each. St Finbarr's: R Leahy (0-2f, 0-1 '45'), J Sexton (0-1 s/l) 0-3 each, R O'Mahony 1-0, C O'Sullivan, F Murray (0-1f) 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS -- B Morgan; D Breen, D Kavanagh, C O'Shea; C O'Brien, B O'Regan, A O'Reilly; P Morgan, D Niblock; P Kerrigan, A Cronin, W Morgan; B O'Driscoll, S O'Brien, D O'Callaghan. Subs: M Cronin for Breen (44), J Masters for Kearney (45), D Mehigan for W Morgan (49), A Morgan for S O'Brien (59), B Twomey for Niblock (60).
ST FINBARR'S -- K McTiernan; P Kennedy, R O'Dwyer, G O'Connor; C Lyons, M Shields, N Horgan; E Keane, A O'Shea; C O'Sullivan, C McCarthy, J O'Donoghue; J Sexton, R Leahy, R O'Mahony. Subs: F Murray for O'Donoghue, M Ryan for O'Shea (both 49), I Leahy for O'Sullivan (52), G Leahy for McCarthy (60).
Ref -- M Collins (Clonakilty).