A welcome case of having saved their best till last, according to Luke Connolly, the Nemo forward describing Sunday’s Munster club final win as the team’s outstanding performance of 2019.
Paul O’Donovan’s side laid to rest the ghosts of their agonising 2015 Munster final defeat to Clonmel Commercials when comfortably seeing off the Tipp club by 0-15 to 0-6 at Fraher Field, a one-sided decider during which the Premier champions were held to four points from play.
“The danger coming in was that we’d be over-focused on 2015. Everyone we spoke to was mentioning it. But as you can see from our performance, it was the furthest thing from our minds," said man of the match Connolly.
"We were focused on this match and this match only, and a complete performance, which we managed to put together.”
“With 2015 hanging over us, as well as coming up against a good side in a pitch we are not used to, we were under pressure coming in here to put in a performance. But that is definitely our best 60 minutes of the year.”
Once again, Nemo were defensively sound. Commercials were held scoreless for periods of 18 and 24 minutes, only one of their starting forwards managing to find the target from play.
The introduction of Brian Murphy into the right corner-back position and the redeployment from midfield to half-back of Jack Horgan, allied to the current form of Kevin O’Donovan and Stephen Cronin, means it is very difficult to see Nemo’s All-Ireland semi-final opponents Corofin posting a tally anywhere near the 2-19 they ran up when the pair clashed in the 2018 club decider.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the six lads at the back, Micheál Martin behind them, and the fellas coming in. You had Kieran Histon and Kevin Fulignati come in, they would start on most teams.
No more than his teammates at the back, Connolly couldn’t but have been content with his own Munster final contribution. His 0-7, five of which came from play, brought his 2019 championship total to 2-28 (0-14 placed balls) .
“I was probably disappointed against Stacks in the Munster semi-final, even though it was a great performance by the team. I only contributed a point and I always want to score more than that. I was just glad to contribute here, be it seven points or seven assists. Obviously, I am happier that it is seven points. The result, though, is the main thing.
“I seem to have a knack with Munster finals in the last three years, it seems to just go right on the day. But I do have 30 unbelievable fellas around me. They put me in position, all I had to do was finish off the hard work that was done in the build-up.”
The 27-year old was guilty of failing to put away two of the three goal chances Nemo engineered in the opening 14 minutes of Sunday’s final. Converting the green flag opportunities they are creating has, arguably, been the poorest area of their game en route to a 21st county title and a 17th Munster crown.
Connolly acknowledges they will need to be more ruthless in front of goal if Nemo are to stop three-in-a-row chasing Corofin and secure a 13th All-Ireland final appearance.
“It has probably been one of our biggest let-downs this year — not converting in front of goal.
“Coming up against Corofin in January, we are going to need to be able to take those chances.”
The inside forward was adamant that avenging last year’s All-Ireland final annihilation will not be Nemo’s driving motivation in the five weeks to prepare for the Corofin clash.
“This Munster final was getting one monkey off our back. We have another one now coming up in Corofin.
"There is always a narrative that is going to be hanging over a club like Nemo because you have faced nearly everyone at this stage. We will focus on ourselves. Yes, we will pull from 2018, but, we are a different team from then.”
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