DR CROKES lost their Munster club title to a rampant Nemo Rangers side at Páirc UI Rinn on Sunday. Nemo won by a mere five points but they could well have won by double that, had they not spurned six goal opportunities. There was no goal in the match which finished 16 points to 11. Nemo were the supreme masters and are fully deserving of this victory, their 16th Munster title. They will now go on to the All-Ireland series in February and they are worthy champions. The acrobatic brilliance of Shane Murphy and the superb blocking of John Payne denied Nemo those six clear-cut chances at goal scoring. Crokes had just one shot at goal near the end when they were without Kieran O’Leary who was sent off after picking up his second yellow card.
Crokes opened smartly when Johnny Buckley kicked over the opening point. Gavin White scored another point and he had an outstanding game throughout at wingback, for the full hour, but the defence overall could not keep Nemo at bay by himself and Payne. Man of the match was Nemo’s Luke Connolly who finished the game with 10 points. This included four converted frees and two 45s. He was also very much on top in general play. Once he got going after the opening 10 minutes the Cork side were the complete masters despite some wonderful high fielding by Johnny Buckley, but Crokes lacked their normal rhythm and any effort at scoring was swallowed up by the in-form Nemo defence.
Between the 12th and the 20th minute Nemo scored six points and Crokes failed to score. They did have three good chances of points but Nemo stood resolute. Nemo won most of the individual battles. Barry O’Driscoll was denied a goal bound shot by a superb Payno block. He repeated the heroics also when Alan O’Donovan sent a great ball in to Paddy Gumley; this effort was snuffed out by Payno. Brian Looney tried very hard in a forward division that failed to ignite.
One felt that halftime could not come half quick enough for Crokes from the constant bombardment and the surprise is that Crokes were still within the sights of Nemo on the scoreboard. Once again they were grateful to their brilliant goalkeeper Shane Murphy. I expected changes in the Crokes team at half-time but that did not happen until the three quarter stage when Paul Clarke came on for Gavin O Shea. Tony Brosnan came on two minutes later for Micheál Burns. Crokes got within striking distance of the Cork men but they could not kick on.
While Nemo were eager and enthusiastic throughout the field and matched that with scores, Crokes laboured and had all the signs of a tired team. This team won six of the Kerry county championships in recent years and crowned it all by winning the All Ireland club title on St Patrick’s Day 2017. They have been on the go over that long and successful period and there was no let-up for the past 18 months. Missing on Sunday last was the slick teamwork which was the trademark of this Croke team, but there comes a time when that will end and that is what happened on Sunday last. A vastly superior Nemo team proved much too good for Crokes. The surprise was that Nemo did not double their match winning five-point win.
The pitch was very cut up and players found it very hard to keep their feet, but it was the same conditions for both sides and Crokes will not be putting that up as an excuse. They were overwhelmed by a vastly superior side. There was great intensity in the game with honest to goodness tackles for the most part. However it spilled over in the last ten minutes when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Nemo Rangers: L Connolly (0-10, 4 frees, 2 45s); P. Gumley (0-3); A O’Reilly, P Kerrigan, C Horgan (0-1 each); Dr Crokes: C Cooper 0-3 frees), D Casey (1 free) (0-2 from play); B Looney (0-2); J. Buckley, G. White, J. Kiely (0-1 each).