ALL week long the questions had been pretty straight-forward for Nemo Rangers.
Could they stop the movement of the Corofin attack that dismantled them two years ago?
Thirty seconds into the game Corofin had a goal.
Could they penetrate Corofin’s defensive block that makes shot creation really difficult?
Nemo didn’t score until the 23rd minute.
There was a little more to the story here of a game where Nemo didn’t achieve any sort of fluidity and made far too many basic errors but in the end they just couldn’t find the answers or control the game in any way against this class Corofin side (35 games unbeaten now and who’ll feel they have another gear or two in truth).
In the lead-in to the Man Utd/ Barcelona Champions League final in 2011, Alex Ferguson spoke about knowing what had gone wrong in the final two years earlier and having a plan to fix it; United got an even bigger chasing in 2011.
If Nemo had ideas on how to stop Corofin opening up their defence for goals – and remember Nemo hadn’t conceded a goal in six matches - the opening play of the game definitely wouldn’t have been on the gameplan.
Twenty seconds into the game Corofin’s best kickpassing playmaker Gary Sice had possession and time to lift his head in the half-forward line and Corofin had two inside-forwards running into spaces.
Martin Farragher made the run to the side to receive the first pass, Micheal Lundy made the double movement to get behind Alan Cronin and where most teams might have been happy to take a point at that stage, Corofin ruthlessly went for the goal, rounded Micheal Martin and blasted to the net.
It was a statement of intent and it had its effect as Nemo never quite settled and always looked to be chasing the game after that moment.
Corofin might not have been quite as clinical again but they did have that ability to create scoring chances far more effectively.
They work quite clearly on moving the ball into the scoring zone, don’t tend to take on low-percentage shots, and again here their movement of ball and players across their attack caused problems.
They had nine attacks into Nemo’s forty-five that opening twenty minutes or so, scored 1-4 and had two narrow wides and they were able to open the spaces more effectively than Nemo.
For two scores in that opening blitz they kickpassed balls into their full-forward line, got runners taking ball at speed and kicked scores.
Their fifth point just before half-time was a perfect field-length move that focused all their good points, a long kickpass to Ian Burke, a crossfield kickpass to the other inside-forward, and then another crossfield kickpass to a runner from midfield, Kieran Molloy, who punched over.
In the second half they were content enough to pick off counter-attacks, Ian Burke kicked two points from receiving kickpasses in one-v-one situations with space either side – there’s only one outcome there.
Nemo wouldn’t have been too unhappy with conceding 1-10 beforehand and though they were never overrun, they never looked totally in control of Corofin’s attacking play either.
If Nemo have regrets it’ll probably be more what they did and didn’t do on the ball themselves.
Eight times in the opening twenty minutes they had attacks inside Corofin’s forty-five without creating a proper chance. Corofin controlled their defensive zone and Nemo simply struggled to move the ball to their shooters in scoring positions – Nemo had one long spell of possession in the seventh minute, working the ball across the field without ever managing to find a gap to kick or run into and eventually they just handpassed it loose.
They never got combinations going to break lines, Mark Cronin got isolated at one stage against three defenders with no runner to help.
They took on shots from outside the scoring zone, in only the 16th minute Luke Connolly shot wide out of pure desperation to make something happen and though Connolly kept trying, he couldn’t manage to get on the ball in danger areas.
Paul Kerrigan couldn’t get into the game.
There were unlikely errors as Nemo tried too hard to force things.
Colin O’Brien handpassed over the sideline at one stage and Stephen Cronin kicked another ball out over the line, from positions these players would normally be locked in.
They lost possession coming out of defence and gave away a forty-five on their own endline in the second half just with some sloppy ballhandling and passing – Corofin punished them with a well-worked score from it.
It just wouldn’t click and Nemo lacked their usual penetration or composure on the ball. Only Barry O’Driscoll looked like getting behind the opposition defence – he forced a good save in the first half and shot over in the second when a half-chance presented – and if there was a little burst of two points in a row in the third quarter, there was never really a feeling that Nemo were playing well enough to push on.
Nemo will wonder how they ended up with 0-7 from the sort of possession they had over the course of the game and that was never going to be enough.
It was always going to take one of Nemo’s more special performances and if they’ll look back on why they weren’t able to produce more here, it might just be that Corofin are the best around right now.