Nemo Rangers 5-7 Ballincollig 0-14
Goals were the difference as reigning champions Nemo Rangers advanced to the semi-finals of the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC with victory over Ballincollig at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday night.
Three green flags in the first half ensured that Nemo stayed in front of a Ballincollig side that battled well, with the half-time score 3-4 to 0-7. Though Ballincollig threatened to eat into that deficit after Nemo were reduced to 14 men due to a black card early in the second half, a fourth goal – Luke Connolly’s hat-trick – effectively put the outcome beyond doubt.
It means Paul O’Donovan’s side progress to a meeting with Duhallow in the last four- a repeat of last year’s final – and while it wasn’t a perfect performance from the Trabeg outfit, there were flashes of what they can do. All of the goals arose out of incisive moves, showcasing good interplay, with Mark Cronin and Ronan Dalton providing extra attacking dimensions along with Connolly.
Ballincollig, who had beaten Nemo in their last two championship meetings, semi-finals in 2014 and 2016, will rue the fact that they conceded five goals as otherwise there were a lot of positive aspects, with Cian Dorgan and Darren Murphy leading their attacking charge while Cian Kiely was influential around the middle.
Nemo asserted themselves from the off, with Connolly’s free making it 0-2 to 0-1 before the kickout was won by Paul Kerrigan, who fed Barry O’Driscoll and he played in Connolly for a good finish.
Ballincollig responded strongly to that, putting pressure on the Nemo kickout, wing-back John Paul Murphy prominent, and that resulted in points for Dorgan, Murphy and Kiely to put them within one as the water break neared. After the resumption, they continued to compete well and well level in the 27th minute as Murphy landed a super score from the left.
However, Nemo’s riposte was swift and devastating. A super move was instigated with a lovely crossfield pass by Connolly for Dalton and he picked out Cronin, who finished well.
Then, in injury time, Cronin’s vision saw him pick out the run of midfielder Peter Morgan, who was hauled down by Liam Jennings for a penalty, which Connolly slotted home to give them that six-point interval advantage.
Early in the second half, Nemo lost Colin O’Brien to a black card and Ballincollig scored three points out of four as Kiely made the most of his status as the spare man, but just before the restoration of parity of manpower, Nemo got a fourth goal. It was a ruthless counter-attack, with Dalton finding centre-back Stephen Cronin, who in turn fed corner-back Barry Cripps, and his pass allowed Connolly to glide through and net his third goal of the night.
It meant they were 4-5 to 0-10 ahead at the water-break, but Ballincollig did test the resolve slightly with three points on the trot, Murphy with two and Evan Cooke on target as well, though they did need Jack Gibbons to be alert to prevent a fifth Nemo goal, denying Kevin O’Donovan.
However, the fifth goal wasn’t long in arriving, with Connolly the creator this time and Dalton the beneficiary. While Ballincollig sub Dara Dorgan did pull one back to make it 5-5 to 0-14, Nemo eased clear at the end with points from Paul Kerrigan and a 45 from Connolly to ensure an eight-point win in the end.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: L Connolly 3-3 (1-0 penalty, 0-2 f, 0-1 45), M Cronin 1-2 (0-1 f), R Dalton 1-1, P Kerrigan 0-1.
Scorers for Ballincollig: C Dorgan 0-5 (0-2 45, 0-1 f), D Murphy 0-4, C Kiely 0-2, D Dorgan, E Cooke, C Moore 0-1 each.
NEMO RANGERS: MA Martin; A Cronin, J Histon, B Cripps; K O’Donovan, S Cronin, J Horgan; P Morgan, J McDermott; B O’Driscoll, R Dalton, C O’Brien; M Cronin, L Connolly, P Kerrigan.
Subs: C Horgan for P Morgan (48), B Murphy for J Horgan (56), C O’Donovan for M Cronin (60).
BALLINCOLLIG: J Gibbons; S Murphy, C Moore, L Jennings, S Murphy; JP Murphy, N Galvin, C Kiely; S Kiely, K Coleman; E Cooke, L Fahy, K Browne; P Kelly, C Dorgan, D Murphy.
Subs: D Dorgan for Fahy (half-time), G O’Donoghue for Browne (38), E O’Reilly for Coleman (51 inj).
Referee: D Murnane (Macroom).