IT was interesting to contrast the celebrations after the football and hurling finals last weekend.
Nemo Rangers, the club team, were more subdued than Imokilly, the division.
Was it that capturing a 20th county meant Nemo were complacent? Hardly, as they’ve suffered plenty of defeats this decade and beating traditional rivals St Finbarr’s in a replay after two crackers made this one pretty sweet.
The new hurling champions were certainly more convincing in the latter stages on Sunday. Blackrock came close to upsetting the odds, they just needed a green flag, but Imokilly repelled the city side’s late charge and franked the victory with a goal from Brian Mulcahy. They were buzzing when the final whistle sounded where Nemo were breathing a collective sigh of relief.
The primary reason in the contrast was the Trabeg side were really rattled by their fourth-quarter efforts. It was elation more than the unbridled joy you normally get from the winning team at full-time.
They almost coughed up a 12-point lead as they were outscored 2-5 to 0-1 and Paul Kerrigan made a vital interception in added time when they were hanging on which enabled them to run the clock down.
What was especially galling for Nemo was how preventable the goals were, one after a kick-out mix-up and another from a close-range Stephen Sherlock free which wasn’t hit with enough venom to deceive the green and black mass on the line.
Speaking to keeper Mícheál Aodh Martin in the press area after he was certainly irritated by the finale. It was a real sign of Martin’s maturity that he was immediately weighing up how he can improve from this.
He was also highly motivated for the Munster championship on the horizon.
That’s how they roll in Nemo. They’ve turned their previous 19 counties into 15 provincial titles and after being stunned by a late goal to lose to Clonmel two years ago they’ll be gunning for a shot at Dr Crokes this time, assuming the Kerry-Cork showdown comes to pass.
Did we see enough from Nemo over their Cork campaign to give them a shot?
It’s hard to say. Their return of 4-12, all from play, was more than won the hurling final and they were smart up front, with just five wides to Barrs’ 13. Any team spearheaded by Paul Kerrigan and Luke Connolly has the firepower to match the best.
Jack Horgan was the Reardens’ Man of the Match from midfield, and Alan O’Donovan is a fine player too, but Nemo don’t have a primary ball-winner ala David Niblock or Derek Kavanagh in the last era.
In the rearguard they did enough to get over the line across these two games but were still under pressure from a team highly reliant on one forward for scores, Stephen Sherlock. In the Munster arena, and especially in Crokes’ case, there are multiple attacking options to shut down.
By the same token you’d expect the Cronins, Alan and Stephen, and captain Aidan O’Reilly, to up the gears over the coming months. Starting with the Déise champions, assuming Waterford get their competition finished. Tomás Ó Sé has miles on the clock but is still an expert at collecting possession.
Of course there was an air of poignancy on a weekend where Barrs great Kevin McTernan, who has Nemo relations through Larry and Joe Kavanagh was laid to rest. His loss was the Blues’ but it was keenly felt across all the Cork football faithful and many believed the county final should have been postponed as a mark of respect.
With Brian Dillon’s waiting for Nemo in a county junior hurling semi-final next Saturday and St Catherine’s already in the final, there wasn’t room in the calendar to re-fix the SFC replay. A pity.
It would have been fitting had the Barrs captured the Andy Scannell Cup last weekend especially, but they’ll be at the forefront for the next few season you’d expect.
As with Blackrock, they’ve a decent squad and tradition, while in Ian Maguire and Stephen Sherlock two of the best footballers on Leeside.
They won’t want to hear it this week, but they’ll be back.
Indeed you’d expect Nemo-Barrs to be box-office stuff in the coming years.