Goals key but Nemo defence kept three clean sheets in six games

Micheál Aodh Martin lauds the players in front of him for their important role in landing the club's 22nd county football title
Goals key but Nemo defence kept three clean sheets in six games

Briain Murphy and Stephen Cronin of Nemo Rangers celebrate their county title. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

FUTURE generations of Nemo Rangers supporters will glance at the record books showing back-to-back county senior football titles in 2019 and 2020.

They will probably wonder at the asterisk or two or maybe even more attached to this latest triumph, the club’s 22nd in all following the 3-7 to 0-13 win over Castlehaven at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.

Why did the 2020 championship start on July 24 against Valley Rovers and not finish until August 29, 2021, a mere 57 weeks later, representing one year, one month and five days?

And they will also puzzle at the gap between the two county finals, only 96 weeks, one year, 10 months and two days!

Then they can find all about Covid, pandemics, lockdowns and much, much more besides.

It was Nemo’s fourth time retaining the Andy Scannell Cup in back-to-back victories not forgetting the three-in-a-row from 2000 and the four-on-the-spin from 2005.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and his wife Mary with their son, Nemo Rangers captain Micheál Aodh Martin. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and his wife Mary with their son, Nemo Rangers captain Micheál Aodh Martin. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Nemo captured titles on the bounce for the first time in 1974/75, repeating it in 77/78 and again in 1987/88 before Sunday’s success.

Current goalkeeper and captain Micheál Aodh Martin explained it was a real motivation for the group.

“We were disappointed the years we didn’t do it,” he said after the game.

“In fairness, Castlehaven did a number on us in 2018 and we were driving hard that year, but probably fell into the trap of not taking it one game at a time.

“And it was the same in 2016 when Ballincollig beat us.

“That’s one of the things we learned this season even though it wasn’t pretty at times. I thought we were poor in the semi-final win over Duhallow.” 

Martin managed to keep his third clean sheet of the six-game schedule with only the north-west combination firing twice past him.

And while much of the talk centred on the contributions of two-goal Luke Connolly and man-of-the-match Paul Kerrigan, the skipper was quick to praise the performances of his defenders, from Kieran Histon in the right corner to Jack Horgan on the left flank.

I know the quality of our defenders. All you have to do is look at the likes of Aidan O’Reilly on the bench.

“That alone is a tribute to the six defenders who started and we’ve another couple coming up who are in their early 20s, as well.

“Our intermediates pushed Knocknagree all the way last year, losing by a point, and I reckon we’ve about nine pushing hard for those six slots in the back line.

“And I knew going out that they would do the job even though it was a big ask considering the Haven had Michael and Brian Hurley and Jack Cahalane.

“I thought we got our match-ups right and it worked out for us,” Martin added.

Nemo Rangers supporters after defeating Castlehaven in the Bon Secours Cork SFC final 2020 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers supporters after defeating Castlehaven in the Bon Secours Cork SFC final 2020 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Connolly’s brace of second-half goals brought his tally to 7-22 in the campaign, reflecting 1-0 from a penalty, 12 frees and one ‘mark.’

His joust with Cork hurler Damien Cahalane was an interesting sideshow, notably in the first half, when Connolly struggled to elude his shadow.

Yet, it worked in Nemo’s favour, too, because Connolly took Cahalane away from his centre-back role, where he presents a formidable obstacle, and there’s no more capable outfit to capitalise.

It happened as early as seven minutes in when Horgan bombed forward and was delighted to see such a yawning gap in front of him. The wing-back duly tore in on goal to set-up substitute Ciaran Dalton for such a tonic so soon in the contest.

The decision to place Connolly in the corner for the second half also worked a treat for the champions. He was able to use all his cunning to elude his marker and get on the end of Kerrigan’s instinctive passes to claim his pair of goals.

Before the game, if you told the Haven that Brian Hurley would post more points than the whole Nemo tally, they would have rubbed their hands gleefully.

Nemo Rangers Alan O'Donovan is tackled by Castlehaven's Ronan Walsh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers Alan O'Donovan is tackled by Castlehaven's Ronan Walsh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Nemo’s seven-point return was the lowest of any of their 22 final victories, but, like Tyrone, it was all about goals.

Both the Haven and Kerry actually scored more times, 13 against 10 and 22 against 17 respectively.

Nemo’s three-goal blast was the same as the 1981 win over Bantry Blues.

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