BY GER McCARTHY
County U21A football final – Nemo Rangers v Valley Rovers – Friday, August 14th, at 8.15pm in Páirc Uí Rinn:
VALLEY Rovers and Nemo Rangers county U21 A football championship decider has all the ingredients of a classic ahead of Friday night’s showdown in Páirc UÌ Rinn.
2014 champions Nemo put their title on the line against 2013 winners Valley Rovers in what should be an enthralling affair between two clubs who have dominated the age-grade over the past number of years.
Defending champions Nemo Rangers are looking to retain the U21 A trophy they won in such dominant fashion over twelve months ago when the city club racked up 5-14 in their quarter-final victory over Mallow before edging their upcoming opponents in the last four.
A narrow 1-12 to 2-6 semi-final win over previous champions Valley Rovers ended the Innishannon club’s interest in the competition and qualified Nemo Rangers for the county decider against Ballincollig. A thrilling final ended 3-9 apiece before Nemo won the replay by eight points to bring the cup back to Capwell.
Rangers’ preparations for Friday night’s clash have been hampered by the loss of inter-county star Stephen Cronin to injury. The Nemo defender suffered a fractured leg in a recent senior league game against Clonakilty and his calming influence will be sorely missed.
Despite Cronin’s absence, Nemo still possess the core of a squad capable of winning back to back titles with goalkeeper Micheal Martin impressing in the early rounds and ably assisted by Craig Madden, Alan O’Donovan and the talented forward pairing of Kevin OíDonovan plus Ryan Kennedy.
Chiedozie Ogbene has been one of Nemo Rangers’ standout performers this term, especially in the quarter-final victory over Clonakilty and how Valleyís cope with the athletic midfielder will be crucial to the outcome of what is expected to be a closely fought encounter.
Carrigdhoun champions Valley Rovers have been in menacing form en route to qualifying for their second U21 A final in three years. Fermoy were brushed aside 4-9 to 1-5 in the quarter-finals back in May before a much-anticipated semi-final meeting with Beara.
The two sides clashed in Skibbereen and Rovers produced a superb second half performance to qualify for the decider thanks to a 1-15 to 0-11 victory. The teams were level heading into the closing stages when Eoin O’Reilly scored a crucial goal and Valley’s fired over six late points to book a date with Nemo Rangers.
Little doubt Rovers possess all the necessary attributes to claim another U21 title with a talented team that includes O’Reilly, Darragh Looney, Darragh Lordan and Jack Murphy who have all produced consistent displays in helping their club reach Friday night’s final at Páirc UÌ Rinn.
Midfielders Danny O’Sullivan and Darragh Murphy were excellent in the quarter-final victory over Beara and they will need to provide the attacking platform from which Valley’s hope to counteract a free-running Nemo attack.
Prediction – This particular U21 final looks certain to go right down to the wire, but Valley Rovers should just about shade it.