The best ever and the worst ever. So goes Paul Kerrigan’s description of Nemo’s last two Munster finals, writes Eoghan Cormican.
We’ll deal first with the 2010 decider, played in January of the following year after two weather-enforced postponements.
Nemo could do no wrong during the opening half an hour at Mallow. From all angles and distances, they found the target. James Masters’ drop-kicked goal was a thing of beauty, as were the points from Barry O’Driscoll and Paul Kerrigan from either sideline. When referee Derek O’Mahoney called half-time, Eddie Kirwan’s charges had built up a 1-13 to 0-3 lead.
Okay, they wobbled slightly upon the resumption, but that did not take from a flawless first 30.
“It’s probably the best first half I’ve ever seen or played in,” says Kerrigan. “There were very few wides. Everything we hit went over. There were half-backs getting scores, guys coming on getting scores. It was unbelievable.
“Ciaran O’Shea was marking Gooch, did quite well on him. Brian Morgan saved a one-on-one shot from him in the first-half, as well. Everything went really, really to plan for us. It was funny because we played Ballincollig in a league game the week before and were well beaten.”
Kerrigan still views the 2010/11 campaign as a missed opportunity. Four weeks after Crokes, they travelled to the Gaelic Grounds for an All-Ireland semi-final against St Brigid’s of Roscommon. The game turned on Dave Niblock’s 36th-minute sending-off, Nemo finishing with 13 as Aidan O’Reilly saw red in the dying moments. The underdogs won through to Croke Park with two to spare.
“That was probably the year,” Kerrigan surmises.
There’s been just the one Munster final appearance since, and where 2010 began in almost perfect fashion, 2015 couldn’t have finished much worse. Two minutes of injury-time elapsed, Nemo in front by two, long ball in, Michael Quinlivan fetch and finish. The spoils to Clonmel.
“It was the worst ever, that’s the only way I can describe it. It literally was the last kick of the game.
“We took over for the last quarter, played well on a very windy day. There was only one team in it towards the finish. They took a short kick-out, I fouled one of their players, and then there was a second foul. They just lumped it in, the ball broke, Michael swivelled and put it in the bottom corner. Horrendous.”
The Cork captain was 18 when picking up a first Munster club medal in 2005. He’s since added two more. Not with this group, though.
“I haven’t won one in a while so it feels like I haven’t won one... this group hasn’t won one at all, so it’s a big game. We just need to win one. We have a mantra inside, ‘the next one is always the most important’, whether a county or a Munster. It’s the last game of 2017. It would be great to have something to look forward to over Christmas.”
There’s an element too of knowing they’ll be compared to Nemo teams of the past, in terms of silverware collected. But instead of being burdened by this, the current crop are hungry to follow in the footsteps of footballers they idolised growing up.
“It is very rare in the city to have a pocket of just solely football. Derek, Larry, and Joe Kavanagh are Capwell, Colin Corkery and Stephen O’Brien are from Turner’s Cross. When you have a bit of success, guys want to emulate that. If fellas are thinking of going to soccer or football, you might just stick at it, they’re your examples to follow.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.