Nemo v Ballincollig: Favourites have the firepower to progress to final

Podsie O'Mahony's side come in as underdogs but have gained momentum after a poor start to the campaign in losing to Mallow
Nemo v Ballincollig: Favourites have the firepower to progress to final

Luke Connolly, Nemo Rangers, with possession against Carbery Rangers in the last round. Picture: Larry Cummins

SUNDAY: Bon Secours Premier SFC semi-final: Nemo Rangers v Ballincollig, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.

BOTH stuttered at different stages en route to this stage of a very competitive championship and yet it hardly matters.

Ballincollig didn’t even look like getting out of their group containing Mallow, Valley Rovers and Douglas after having only a point to show for their efforts after two games.

But big wins over Valleys, in what was effectively a knock-out match, and Carbery in the quarter-finals left no room for discussion about the merits of their qualification.

Nemo are unbeaten all season in league and championship, but the manner of their struggles against massed ranks of defenders in their most recent encounters with Carbery Rangers and Clonakilty has raised questions.

Still, the bottom line is that the Trabeg club won both ties despite only scoring 0-8 and 2-4 respectively and Sunday is an entirely different challenge.

They will take confidence from clinching their qualification from Group C following their thrilling 3-13 to 1-16 victory over Castlehaven in round 2, when Luke Connolly and Mark Cronin combined for 2-9.

Nemo had to endure some anxious moments in a Haven-dominated second period when they ran at their opponents, and it took some Connolly magic to finally kill off their challenge.

Ballincollig won’t mind that it’s Nemo blocking their route to a possible third decider because in their two previous semi-final appearances the Village overcame the city club.

HISTORIC

In their historic breakthrough 2014 season, Ballincollig had seven points to spare, winning by 2-10 to 0-9, and two years later, when they lost to Carbery Rangers in the final, they edged their rivals by a point, 1-10 to 2-6.

Nemo have happier memories, though, of their more recent meeting, a Luke Connolly hat-trick propelling them to a comprehensive 5-7 to 0-14 triumph in the 2020 quarterfinals.

And they will also comfort themselves knowing Ballincollig won’t be as defence-minded as their west Cork opponents of late though it’s a chore that will occupy their rivals, for sure.

One of Ballincollig’s strengths is their scoring power up top, Cian Dorgan with 2-15 in three outings and Darren Murphy 3-12 from four with others like Darragh O’Mahony, Liam O’Connell and the Kielys, Sean and Cian, also chipping in.

Scoring 4-11 and 4-14 in their last two outings reflects Ballincollig’s threat, but they face a more challenging task on this occasion against a seasoned and well-balanced Nemo defence which should create some interesting individual jousts.

It’s likely Cork defender Kevin O’Donovan will pick up Murphy in the left corner, Stephen Cronin shackling the pace and skill of O’Connell on the 40 with either Kevin Fulignati or newcomer Ciaran McCartan picking up O’Mahony.

Ballincollig's Cian Dorgan being tackled by Carbery's Dan Twomey. Picture: Denis Boyle
Ballincollig's Cian Dorgan being tackled by Carbery's Dan Twomey. Picture: Denis Boyle

In front of the posts, there’s another intriguing head-to-head between Briain Murphy and Dorgan and it all lends itself to a fascinating series of personnel duels with Micheál Aodh Martin keeping a watching brief.

And it’s likewise at the other end as Ballincollig brace themselves for what Connolly and co are likely to bring to the party.

Ballincollig have plenty of experience at the back in Liam Jennings, Noel Galvin and Cian Kiely with the first pair likely to have Connolly and Cronin for company, though Barry O’Driscoll’s presence will also occupy minds as Ballincollig ponder their matchups with Luke Fahy and Gearoid O’Donoghue also showing up well.

Modern tactics tend to dilute midfield’s influence though it remains an important area, one in which Ballincollig had a lot of joy against Carbery.

Sean Kiely brings a wealth of experience and know-how to a sector in which he was joined by Evan Cooke the last time while Sean Dore is also a viable option there.

Alan O’Donovan is Nemo’s go-to man here with Barry Cripps likely to partner him if injury doesn’t prevent him from lining out. Both teams know the benefit to be gained by pouncing on the breaking ball in the middle and this will be an important element in determining the outcome.

Conditions, too, will also impact as pitches get wetter posing obvious problems for players in controlling the leather and remaining upright.

History and tradition favours Nemo, who are the bookies’ favourites to replace St Finbarr’s as champions, but Ballincollig have every chance.

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