With one old score comprehensively settled, redemption will again be foremost on Nemo minds when they step into the ring with Corofin early in the New Year.
Nemo’s reward for bringing home to Trabeg a 17th Munster crown is an All-Ireland semi-final fixture against back-to-back champions Corofin on the opening weekend of January, a side who are unbeaten in championship since February 11 of 2017.
The two teams last crossed paths in the 2018 All-Ireland final, a game which Corofin won with 15 to spare. No more than Sunday so, where Nemo laid to rest the ghosts of their gut-wrenching 2015 Munster final defeat to Commercials, motivation won’t be in short supply for their latest dance with the men from North Galway.
“It is hard to put into words the feeling in the dressing-room after the 2015 Munster final and again after being hammered by Corofin in Croke Park last year,” said Paul Kerrigan.
“You never forget that feeling, and it has helped this group get another Munster title. We’ll go away and prepare for Corofin. We’ll be massive underdogs, but if we can turn up, who knows what might happen.”
This was a landmark afternoon for the 32-year old — on two fronts. As well as becoming the third Nemo man to make 100 championship appearances for the club — his father Jimmy has 101 while Dinny Allen is out front with 107 — Kerrigan’s second-half point brought his championship tally in the black and green uniform to 300 (23-231).
Mind you, it looked as if Kerrigan, who made his senior club championship debut back in 2005, would have to wait until Nemo’s next outing to hit 300 as he had five wides to his name by the time he finally nailed the target seven minutes from the end.
“The fella in charge of the club Twitter account probably put a curse on me by highlighting I was so close to getting to 300 as it took me six attempts to get that one point. We don’t care who is scoring, but it is a nice honour, all the same.
“[Dad] has 101 appearances so if we can get over Corofin and into the All-Ireland final, I’ll have that over him! I haven’t been injured too often in my career. I pride myself on being available for most games, be it league, championship, or challenge games. And I rarely miss training, if I can. If you can set a bit of an example with how often you train, and can keep going for matches and matches, I’d be happy to do that.”
Kerrigan revealed their target is to limit the opposition to eight points each time they go out, a goal they comfortably achieved in Dungarvan.
Clonmel may have been first on the board through a Jason Lonergan free, but they’d not score in the subsequent 18 minutes, a period during which Luke Connolly (0-3, one free) and Mark Cronin (free) threw over four without reply.
Nemo could also have had three goals during this spell of dominance. Goalkeeper Michael O’Reilly reacted well to keep out Kerrigan and Connolly efforts, while the latter palmed the ball over the bar when presented with a second green flag opportunity.
Ross Peters and All-Ireland winning Tipperary hurler Séamus Kennedy landed back-to-back points to narrow the gap to the minimum; that, however, was as close as Clonmel would get.
The 2015 champions were cleaned out at midfield and their key men kept under wraps throughout, while their distribution of possession, especially in the opposition half of the field, was way below par. In truth, they made it far too easy for Nemo, even if the Cork champions weren’t always clinical in punishing their opponents’ absurdly high error count. Clonmel have now lost more Munster football finals — five — than any other club.
Ahead by 0-7 to 0-3 at the break, Barry O’Driscoll and superb skill from Connolly nudged Paul O’Donovan’s charges six clear on 40 minutes. But for a spot of wayward shooting, Nemo’s lead could have been well into double-digit territory by this juncture.
The last quarter was a procession. Connolly and Cronin swelled their personal tallies, with sub Kevin Fulignati also getting in on the act. Nemo’s attention was already drifting towards January and a chance to right the many wrongs of last year’s All-Ireland final annihilation.
Their defence is much, much improved from 18 months ago, but it remains to be seen if it will hold up against the outstanding club football team of the decade. Thus far, Nemo’s rearguard personnel have offered noevidence that it won’t.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: L Connolly (0-7, 0-2 frees); M Cronin (0-3, 0-3 frees); K O’Donovan, P Kerrigan, B O’Driscoll, C Horgan, K Fulignati (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clonmel Commercials: R Peters (0-2); M Quinlivan (0-1 free), J Lonergan (0-1 free); J Kennedy, S Kennedy (0-1 each).
NEMO RANGERS: MA Martin; B Murphy, A O’Reilly, A Cronin; K O’Donovan, S Cronin, J Horgan; A O’Donovan, J McDermott; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; M Cronin, L Connolly, C Horgan.
Subs: C Dalton for O’Brien (50 mins); K Fulignati for O’Driscoll (58); R Dalton for J Horgan, B Twomey for C Horgan, K Histon for B Murphy (all 63).
CLONMEL COMMERCIALS: M O’Reilly; C McGeever, L Ryan, D Madigan; K Fahey, S Kennedy, K Harney; Conal Kennedy, J Kennedy; R Peters, Colman Kennedy, J Peters; J Lonergan, M Quinlivan, S O’Connor.
Subs: P Looram for Colman Kennedy (HT); R Lambe for Conal Kenedy (40 mins); R Gunne for R Peters (54); D Lynch for Madigan (58); M Murphy for K Harney (63).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).