Monday 26 August 2019

Connolly lifts Nemo back to the summit

Nemo Rangers 0-16 Dr Crokes 0-11 - Munster Club SFC Final

Dr Crokes’ Shane Murphy makes a save from a Luke Connolly shot. Photo: Sportsfile
Dr Crokes’ Shane Murphy makes a save from a Luke Connolly shot. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

At half-time Nemo Rangers' biggest worry was that they had played so well and were still just four points up.

Larry Kavanagh's men would have taken your hand off for that sort of interval lead before throw-in, but such was their dominance in the opening 30 minutes in a sunny but cold Páirc Uí Rinn, it hardly did them justice.

Nemo Rangers players celebrate with the cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Nemo Rangers players celebrate with the cup. Photo: Sportsfile

The city side had scored nine points in the opening half, including six without reply.

In Luke Connolly, who would finish the game with 10 points, they had the clash's stand-out performer.

They also squandered five good goal chances but Nemo manager Kavanagh was confident his side could see the game out.

"I thought in the first half we were as good as we have been at any stage or for any Nemo team," he reflected, after guiding the club to a 16th Munster club SFC title.

Luke Connolly celebrates with Barry O’Driscoll of Nemo Rangers. Photo: Sportsfile
Luke Connolly celebrates with Barry O’Driscoll of Nemo Rangers. Photo: Sportsfile

"We gave them the challenge and we thought - not that Crokes were there for the taking - but if we could go at them we'd get goals. The fact we hadn't got goals at half-time worried us but look, we felt if we could match them score by score we'd still be four points up at the end.

"We gave them a target to try and beat them in the second half, the usual carry on, and they did in fairness to them."

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Nemo had opened a five-point lead at one stage during the opening 30 minutes but should have been out of sight.

Twice Crokes' corner-back John Payne blocked goal-bound shots while he also made a vital interception to deny a certain goal.

When he couldn't intervene goalkeeper Shane Murphy was on hand to make two brilliant saves from Connolly to see them go in at half-time just four points down.

Coping

However, the expected kick from Crokes never came. Nemo were coping much better with the difficult underfoot conditions at the Cork venue and they emerged after the break to kick the first two scores of the half with the effective Paddy Gumley grabbing his third point of the day and Connolly tagging on another free.

Crokes' best period followed. Brian Looney, Daithi Casey (two) and Colm Cooper (free) pointed to cut the gap.

However, Crokes missed two frees through the off-colour Cooper and Casey during this period of dominance.

As it turned out, two points would be as close as they got, as they were outscored by 0-5 to 0-2 in the final quarter.

To their credit, Pat O'Shea's men kept trying. Even though they were reduced to 14 men when Kieran O'Leary picked up a second yellow card in the 53rd minute, they fashioned a late goal chance that was saved. In any case it was much too little too late.

"There was a dodgy period in the second half when they brought it down to two and they missed a free but we kept them at two points," Kavanagh said.

"At the end there was a danger they'd get a goal but even if they did we still had the cushion, but it was a long five minutes!

"Even when they were getting those few points they were coming forward and they were leaving gaps at the back and we thought we would be able to go at them.

"In the first half we wanted to run at them. We pride ourselves on having subs that can come on so we said to fellas to empty themselves and if the legs are gone (they'd make changes) but there was no one coming off at half-time.

"When you have the ball it is easier to keep running and they were doing all the work and chasing without the ball - look, we're delighted."

For Crokes, it was a first competitive defeat of the season and brings to an end a winning streak in Munster that stretched back to the 2010 provincial decider which they also lost to Nemo.

"They could have been (out of sight in the first half)," Crokes selector Harry O'Neill agreed.

"From my point of view, we were probing and they were trying to suck you in and hit you on the break. They were excellent at it and once they got a grip on the game... like, they broke through from deep and they did create chances. Only for Shane Murphy we really would have been struggling at half-time.

"Look, we were only four points down and we felt we were still in the game and if we chipped away at it and maybe poached a goal the game might have opened up.

"In fairness to Nemo, they have a good game-plan, good players and they stuck to it. We just didn't live with it.

"We felt that we did the right things, we felt we were fresh. They actually looked very fresh during the week and we felt we were in a good place coming in here today.

"It just didn't happen and sometimes like today when a team like Nemo get the upper hand on you it makes it difficult to find stuff in your legs.

"If you have the ball it's a lot easier and I think for long periods Nemo were winning a lot of the battles so they had more of the ball and we were chasing it. And legs do get a lot heavier and weary.

"We didn't control and didn't dictate times of the game where we could have picked off scores. Nemo had the possession and it takes it out of the legs."

Nemo's place at the top of the table as far as Munster clubs are concerned is underlined. They move on to a February 17 All-Ireland semi-final clash with Ulster champions Slaughtneil and Kavanagh agreed that tradition of winning helped them deliver on the big day.

"It (pedigree) probably does when you are going up against the likes of Crokes who have won four-in-a-row. Other teams might be intimidated by them… like Nemo are a cocky auld shower, we always think we are going to win anyway but it probably does count.

"It won't win you a game but at least the young fellas weren't nervous.

"Everyone wanted to play. Some lads might go into their shell that they were playing Crokes, the All-Ireland champions, but our fellas they'd be rubbing shoulders with All-Ireland medals back in the club so they were comfortable."

Scorers - Nemo Rangers: L Connolly 0-10 (5fs, 2 45s), P Gumley 0-3, P Kerrigan, A O'Reilly and C Horgan 0-1 each. Dr Crokes: C Cooper (3f), D Casey (1f) 0-3 each, B Looney 0-2, J Buckley, G White, J Kiely 0-1 each.

Nemo Rangers - M A Martin; K O'Donovan, A O'Reilly, A Cronin; J Donovan, S Cronin, K Fulignati; A O'Donovan, J Horgan; B O'Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O'Brien; L Connolly, P Gumley, C Dalton. Subs: C Horgan for Gumley (58), A Greaney for Kerrigan (62).

Dr Crokes - S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, L Quinn; D O'Leary, F Fitzgerald, G White; J Buckley, A O'Sullivan; M Burns, G O'Shea, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, K O'Leary. Subs: P Clarke for O'Shea (44), T Brosnan for Burns (48), E Brosnan for Quinn (53), J Kiely for Looney (54).

Ref - S Longeran (Tipperary)

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