A STRANGER dropping into Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the final whistle in Sunday’s Bon Secours county PSFC final would have thought Nemo Rangers were after winning their first title, not their 23rd.
A 1-16 to 2-9 victory over great rivals and defending champions St Finbarr’s meant a fifth Andy Scannell Cup triumph in eight seasons, adding to 2020, 2019, 2017 and 2015 successes.
Joyous celebrations had as much to do with the general belief that Nemo were marginal underdogs going into the game and the fact that the Barrs produced a thunderous finish before the Trabeg club could savour another victory.
Jubilant manager Paul O’Donovan didn’t believe the Barrs standing as slight favourites impacted the game. “It certainly motivated us because the talk all week was that they were favourites in everyone’s eyes,” he told.
“There’s no question they have improved from last year, but I knew there was a performance in us. I was very confident that if we showed up and put in a performance that we would win. I was convinced of it.”
O’Donovan identified two key aspects which were central to their win, the strong showing of the defence and the use of their bench.
Three of the Barrs starting forwards didn’t see out the hour, Ethan Twomey, Cillian Myers-Murray and Enda Dennehy replaced and that was down to the grip defenders had on them.
“I also thought our bench was a little bit sharper than theirs. I was wondering what was going on, when Conor Denney, who is a very good back, coming on in the forwards for them.
“Ciaran Dalton won a couple of serious balls when he came on and it was the same with Luke Horgan who was able to get forward.”
Conor Horgan scored a spectacular goal to add to his three points, the same points tally he had from the Ballincollig semi-final, earning high praise from the manager.
“He’s been outstanding all season for us and the only reason we took him off was to get fresh legs on. And I think that proved our point with the impact of the two lads who came on.
“Our whole half-forward line came off because we’re asking them to run nine km or 10km during a game and I think you’re betting off having a fellow with legs for those last 10 minutes.
“Paul Kerrigan was the other player to come on and he won his 10th county medal which is some achievement. That’s a record in the club as far as I am aware anyway.
“It’s outstanding and Paul had a great impact on the game being able to slow it down, when we needed to do it and use it well, picking the right pass, going again.
And despite racing 1-13 to 0-5 ahead after 40 minutes, Nemo still faced a whirlwind finish. “At one stage the kitchen sink was coming at us.
“Brian Hayes is a big man and when he gets possession near goal it’s always dangerous as he showed for their first goal.
“I didn’t see who scored their second, but I was told it was Billy Hennessy coming up through the middle and in fairness it was a great finish.”
It was a special day in the life of captain Luke Connolly, who led Nemo for the first time and walked away with the Man of the Match award though he had a preference for someone else.
“I didn’t expect to get the award, to be honest. I thought Conor Horgan would have got it. He kicked two great points in the first half and the goal then was simply brilliant.
“I don’t think I could have pulled it off because it was such a fabulous finish. For a split second I thought he might have passed it to me because I was on my own inside, but when I saw it dropping, I knew it was heading for the net.
“And in the grand scheme of things it was probably the key score in our victory,” Connolly commented.
Overall, it was a great day for city football with St Michael’s at last sampling the sweet taste of county final success in the SAFC and only the most miserable would begrudge them their day in the sun.