MOVING from the first game to the replay it was interesting to see what changes would be made in this SFC final.
Nemo even tweaked their warm-up starting with some kick passing and support play. This was maybe to create focus or as a reminder to what provided Nemo with a platform in the first half last week.
It didn’t have the required effect as St Finbarr’s with the aid of a strong breeze thundered into the game. Ian Maguire once again led by example with Michael Shields and Robert O’Mahony also prominent early on.
As predicted Alan O’Donovan was Maguire’s direct marker but while O’Donovan is no slouch, on the day Maguire had that slight edge in aggression and running power. In fact, Maguire’s trademark run through the middle set up Stephen Sherlock for a well-taken goal.
Sherlock showed great composure for the goal but unfortunately, his decision-making or execution let him down in the first half. Maybe Sherlock is encouraged by management to shoot from all angles as he is their main marksman but just at times considering the conditions some of the shots didn’t seem on.
It’s an area that let the St Finbarr’s down in general.
In the first period, St Finbarr’s had plenty of possession but they couldn’t create enough scoring chances in the central channel. Nemo were struggling in the first 20 minutes with the close attention of the Blues’ backs.
Connolly, Kerrigan and Barry O’Driscoll were peripheral figures and cut frustrated men as there was no flow to Nemo’s game. There was numerous soft turnovers from the favorites, with the only bright light being Jack Horgan’s excellent goal.
Nevertheless considering the Barrs’ dominance there was nothing between the teams.
Nemo’s Cork forwards eventually got worked themselves into the game, with Nemo having a purple patch just before half time. Connolly can frustrate at times but credit is due for his goal. You just knew when he got possession there was only one thing on his mind. Not many players would have executed the way he did.
Looking ahead to the replay you couldn’t see St Finbarr’s keeping a clean sheet two weeks in row.
Paul Kerrigan had a great second half both in defence and attack. He had passages of very good play last week too but on that occasion his finishing him down. Here he got similar chances which he converted which was expected.
While it may have looked odd by the Nemo management to ask Kerrigan to rove deeply considering Nemo were playing with the wind but it actually worked a treat on this occasion. Kerrigan had more freedom and threat coming from deep while he also forced some vital turnovers. None were more important that the intercept on Eoghan Finn as he bore down on the Nemo goal.
Paddy Gumley was great to show inside and win possession, particularly when Kerrigan drifted further back. Also Ciaran Dalton chipped in but stayed wide and created space when required. He played for the team. This can be challenge for many, putting the collective need before their own.
Both teams improved on their kick-outs initially with teams going long and wide or creating more options short. Credit Michael Martin for getting the ball out quicker but the Barrs will regret they let Nemo out so easy early on. Nemo had six successful short kick-outs in the first 20 minutes.
In the last quarter yesterday, Nemo were forced to kick out long and St Finbarr’s won seven from eight. They were twelve points adrift but credit their spirit as from a hopeless position there was only two points in it at the end.
Nemo cannot afford to drift out of games like they have in finals. Comfortable leads having been reduced in no time. It was amazing how momentum changed so rapidly in both games. It is Nemo’s Achilles heel for now and something they will have to rectify heading into another Munster campaign.
In time St Finbarr’s will see the huge strides they have made this season and there is no reason why they can’t be back challenging for honours again next year. It can’t of been easy for players and members alike considering the recent passing of former goalkeeper Kevin McTernan.
Finally, I must acknowledge Nemo on being county champions for 2017.
Their records speak for themselves and they win playing a very positive brand of football.
There is a few hurdles to cross yet but if Nemo end up playing Dr Crokes we could have another cracking game of football.