IF ANY lesson was learned from Sunday’s thrilling Premier Senior football championship final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh it surely was that you should never back against Nemo Rangers in a final.
Their 1-16 to 2-9 victory over reigning champions and favourites St Finbarr’s, was their 23rd county title, all garnered in just 27 finals, which is a truly astounding statistic.
They certainly know how to get the job done.
Steven Sherlock and Luke Connolly were always going to be pivotal to the outcome of this final, given the quality of their shooting, so whichever side was going to get the ball into the hands of their sharpshooter most often was going to be the more likely winner.
A quick look at the match report will tell you that Connolly kicked 0-8 while Sherlock struck 0-6, which would suggest, at first glance at least, that there was not much in it with regards their influence on proceedings, but that stat does not really tell the story, as Connolly ended up having nearly twice the number of possessions that Sherlock had over the hour.
When Sherlock struck over a stereotypical score from distance off his right peg early on it looked like he was going to have one of those really influential days, where his fingerprints would be all over another big Barrs victory, but he was only to have two further possessions in that first half, which shows just how much the Barrs struggled in that opening half.
One of the main reasons for Sherlock’s lack of impact in the opening 35 minutes was the influence that his direct marker, his Cork teammate, Kevin O’Donovan was having on the game.
The Nemo man was constantly driving forward, forcing Sherlock to retreat back in an attempt to curb his influence. The Barrs certainly did not want their main score-getter to be wasting his energy running back 100 yards from the Nemo goal. The Barrs management will certainly regret this match-up.
At the other end, it has to be stated that Nemo were far from a one-man team.
Nemo had been extremely reliant on Connolly throughout this campaign, but on the big day it was very much a collective effort, with Mark Cronin, Conor Horgan and Barry O’Driscoll really fronting up.
Even in saying that Nemo were able to get their main man on the ball regularly, and it was no surprise that he came up with some big moments, with the three points he clipped over from play being particularly eye-catching.
He ended up having 15 possessions over the course of the final, with six of those coming in the first half, when Nemo opened up a commanding 0-9 to 0-4 lead.
The Barrs needed a quick start to the second half but it was here that Connolly really thundered into it, having five possessions from minutes 31 to 39, where he scored two superb points from play, had a shot brilliantly turned around his post by John Kerins, as well as clipping over a free.
Credit to the Barrs for making it an exciting finish, as goals by Brian Hayes and Billy Hennessy in the 40th and 51st minutes, and a great point from play from Ben O’Connor in the 57th minute got them back to four, but ultimately the botched kick-out in the 35th minute that allowed the impressive Conor Horgan clip the ball over the stranded John Kerins provided Nemo with enough insurance to get over the line.
Connolly’s tackle on the hour mark, when forcing Jamie Burns to deflect the ball out for a wide, when there were only three points in it, was testament to his work rate, something he wouldn’t always be renowned for.
Any score for the Barrs at that juncture would have made for a nervous finish for the Capwell side, but their captain certainly led by example in that instant.
The fact that Connolly was chosen as the game’s man of the match says it all. Kevin O’Donovan and Conor Horgan would also have been deserving recipients, but no one would have begrudged Connolly for receiving the gong.
Sherlock ended the game with just eight possessions in open play, with four of those coming after the 50th minute when the Barrs were frantically trying to save their title.
Ultimately, they failed to get him on the ball enough and a significant amount of the postmortem up in Togher will centre on this facet of the game.