You can imagine whatever work is done on the training ground this week, a good portion of time may be dedicated to kick-outs. It is a short space of time to be coming up with tactics but never the less it would be foolish to ignore the joy both teams got from opposition kick-outs.
Nemo won St Finbarr's first five kick-outs leading to a six-point lead after 12 minutes of play. Similarly then in the second half St Finbarr's won six of Nemo Rangers kick-outs in a row with four points scored during this period.
Leading into the game one of St Finbarr's strength’s had been the way they had been aggressive in earlier games and not allowing their opponents to dictate the game. The Barrs didn’t get their chance initially yesterday as they were hemmed into their own half.
When St Finbarr's did win possession, Nemo were the aggressors, which delayed the attack.This allowed Alan O’Donovan to drop deep and block up the central channel while the Nemo defence played very narrow in general. This forced them to shoot from distance, which resulted in three shots being dropped short between Sherlock and Myers Murray.
St Finbarr's were reliant on Ian Maguire making some surging runs for inspiration. His team scored four points in the first half, Maguire scored one plus his trojan work led to two other converted frees.
In contrast, Nemo’s football was a joy to watch. The defence as a unit were getting their heads up and looking to find Connolly or Kerrigan with accurate 20- to 30-yard kick-passes.
This then created space for the Nemo forwards to exploit. No blanket defenses or sweepers to deal with.
Connolly, in particular, looked very sharp with one outrageous defence splitting pass, which led to Nemo’s ninth score.
Never the less it wasn’t a one-man show. If Connolly or Kerrigan were tied up, then Colin O’Brien, or Paddy Gumley coming from full-forward, were more than willing to be options on the 40. As a unit they show good game awareness.
In contrast, St Finbarr's looked to be missing another dynamic option in the half-forward line. Robert O'Mahony was coming deep to provide support to Michael Shields but it just wasn’t giving them the mobility and threat that Nemo had. O’Mahony, as we know, is much better closer to goal. It will be interesting to see will a change be made here for the replay.
Alongside their kick-outs both teams will be disappointed with their shooting overall. Never the less we still had some excellent scores from play. Colin O’Brien kicked two excellent points for Nemo while I taught early in the second half Colin Lyons kicked two massive points for the St Finbarr's, which breathed life into the St Finbarr's performance at just the right time.
Luke Connolly had a great first half but overall I thought Ian Maguire was immense. It’s one thing being good when your team is on top but character is required when your team is under performing. Maguire was under pressure himself from the start with St Finbarr's kick-outs malfunctioning.
His effort alone though dragged St Finbarr's into the game. Similar to the recently retired Alan O’Connor, he is a very honest whole-hearted player. Maguire’s growing maturity shone through at one stage in particular early in the second half.
St Finbarr's were struggling for scores, had just won another free 45 yards out from the Nemo goal but Stephen Sherlock was just after missing a couple of other long range frees. Maguire appeared to decide enough was enough and it was time to work the free short. This led to Colin Lyons second point.
The Barrs showed better composure here on in when faced with Nemo’s congested defence. They showed more patience than in the first half. Players engaged and probed, stretching the defence and forcing Nemo to concede frees closer to goal.
Also Stephen Sherlock was eventually able to create some space and he converted two scores down the home stretch. Sherlock did some silly things over the course of the game but you still would admire him to way he stuck at it, converting important frees and finishing the game really strong.
Nemo will be annoyed as in the second half they lost some of the control and poise they displayed in the first half. It’s amazing at times when a team or player goes out of a game for a period that the next time they win possession, the player can force things a little, which provided the opposition with even more momentum.
Nemo will feel they missed the easier scoring chances and overall you would imagine if they can win enough possession that they have the beating of the St Finbarr's defence. Nemo do look vulnerable though on the counter attack. Nemo had space to play in the first half but on occasions St Finbarr's did get tight and win some excellent turnovers.
St Finbarr's will only know themselves if that was them, giving it their best or were some players unsettled by the new surroundings. I must admit on my first trip to the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh it looks really impressive.
Both teams will feel they have plenty to improve on which sets things up nicely. Overall while not a classic, it was still an enjoyable game to attend.
It will be curious to see who learns most over the next seven days.