Nemo unleash perfect storm
Nemo Rangers 1-15
Dr Crokes 1-13
Munster Club SFC Final
A bizarre end to a somewhat bizarre fixture that has been almost two and a half months coming to the boil.
After two postponements, two venue changes, an hour delay because of a frozen pitch and then an additional 30 minutes because of extra-time in the curtain raiser, the Munster football final for 2010 finally got under way in Mallow at shortly after 4.0pm yesterday.
Naturally, such twists and turns couldn't but produce a complementary match and that's how it transpired. At the end Nemo Rangers were Munster champions for a 15th time but there was a sense of bewilderment about their success at first that quickly turned to relief.
Some 33 minutes earlier they had begun the second half a staggering 13 points -- 1-13 to 0-3 -- clear, playing football that their manager Eddie Kirwan admitted was "as good as I've seen and a pleasure to be involved in".
But large half-time leads can carry a serious health warning to the team that is cushioned by them. The mind works in strange ways and no matter how they would have tried to convince themselves otherwise they knew that any run on them from Dr Crokes would have the capacity to unnerve them and engage the 4,226 crowd. It worked exactly to that script. Crokes emerged an awakened team.
They put the first seven points on the board unanswered and everyone in Mallow was stirred at the prospect of a comeback to surpass all other comebacks. After 15 minutes they had more than halved the deficit, reducing it to just six points, 1-13 to 0-10.
Nemo, so rampant in the opening half thanks to the dominance at midfield of David Niblock and Peter Morgan and the opportunism of just about everyone else, showed little resistance and couldn't get a foothold until Barry O'Driscoll converted a 45-metre free on 49 minutes.
It offered the Cork city giants some respite and when Alan Cronin nudged over a point for a seven-point lead again on 55 minutes, it was enough to even send the new Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin on his way content that the job was done.
But Crokes weren't finished and they kept pressing. Eoin Brosnan inspired them at midfield when he moved there, Colm Cooper was always a worry but Kieran O'Leary did most damage as pillion passenger to 'Gooch'.
When O'Leary fired home a superb goal from a Cooper pass to leave just two points in it, there was 32 minutes and 30 seconds of the second half elapsed with just a scheduled 30 more seconds of added time left to be played. Any more time and they might just have prevailed.
How Dr Crokes must regret the malaise of the first half when they succumbed to a virtual exhibition from the seven-times All-Ireland champions.
"We got hit by a whirlwind. We never came to the game at all in the first half. They just blew us out of it in every part of the field," admitted Dr Crokes manager Harry O'Neill afterwards
"No matter what way they looked to kick the ball, it went over the bar. The goalie could have done it with his left or right and it wouldn't have mattered," added O'Neill.
"Our heads went down, fellas didn't believe and maybe if we had got them into the dressing-room we might have been able to settle them down. We saw what we could do in the second half, that's the disappointing thing."
Sure enough it was as good as any club side has produced in one half for a long, long time. After 20 minutes it looked as good as over, Nemo Rangers cruising to a 1-6 to 0-2 lead. Anything they touched turned to gold. A string of points flew over Crokes 'keeper Kieran Cremin's ahead in the final minutes of the first half that drew gasps from the crowd.
Niblock got it going from midfield, half-back Daragh Breen with No 2 on his back followed it up, then O'Driscoll with his second. They sensed they could do anything from anywhere and they did. David Kearney, Paul Kerrigan, who had kicked an outrageous point from distance early on, swung one over from with the outside of his right boot from an angle that shouldn't have suited a right-footed kicker.
As Cronin slalomed through for the 13th Nemo point just before the break, it wasn't hard to level the accusation at Dr Crokes that they had accepted their fate. Their midfielder Johnny Buckley, who injured his knee last week, was a loss, but to this extent?
Rarely has Cooper seen so little possession in a game as he did in the first half yesterday. He didn't touch the ball for the first nine minutes but he then produced a spark of genius, fetching above three defenders, swinging on to his right foot and then engineering sufficient space for his side's opening score.
Unfortunately for Crokes, it was bettered by another stroke of genius at the other end. James Masters felt sufficiently unwanted to remove himself from the Cork squad earlier last year but he showed in the 10th minute what a creative talent he can be with a cracking drop-kicked goal on the run.
Scorers -- Nemo Rangers: J Masters 1-3 (1f),P Kerrigan (1f), A Cronin, B O'Driscoll (1f) 0-3 each, D Kearney, D Breen, D Niblock all 0-1 each. Dr Crokes: K O'Leary 1-4, D Casey 0-3f, C Cooper 0-2 (1f), B Looney, E Brosnan, F Fitzgerald, A O'Donovan all 0-1 each.
Nemo Rangers -- B Morgan; A O'Reilly, D Kavanagh, C O'Shea; C O'Brien, B O'Regan, D Breen; P Morgan, D Niblock; A Cronin, P Kerrigan, D Kearney; J Masters, S O'Brien, B O'Driscoll. Subs: A Morgan for Kerrigan (48), B Twomey for O'Driscoll (59).
Dr Crokes -- K Cremin; J Payne, D O'Leary, M Moloney; S Myers, L Quinn, S Doolan; A O'Donovan, B McMahon; A Kenneally, E Brosnan, B Looney; C Cooper, D Casey, K O'Leary. Subs: F Fitzgerald for McMahon (26), C Brady for Myers (h-t), S O'Neill for O'Donovan (58).
Ref -- D O'Mahony (Tipperary).