Should Nemo secure an eighth All-Ireland crown this Saturday, there’ll be much stock placed on what the players endured during the month of December.
After dethroning Dr Crokes in the Munster final in late November, Nemo Rangers manager Larry Kavanagh wanted to give his players most of December off.
His thinking was that if they returned on January 1, they’d still have eight weeks to prepare for their All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil.
His players, however, wouldn’t entertain any suggestion of a hiatus and insisted they keep motoring along.
There wasn’t a single football kicked in Trabeg in the month after the Crokes win. Each session consisted of running drills. Post-to-post, wire-to-wire. Legs screaming, stomachs burning.
The manner in which they kicked on during extra-time against Slaughtneil — Nemo landed seven unanswered points in the first 10-minute period — vindicated trainer Robbie O’Dwyer’s punishing winter training.
And given Saturday’s opponents, Corofin, have averaged 2-13 per game en-route to the All-Ireland final, Nemo captain Aidan O’Reilly knows they’ll have to match the speed and movement of Michéal Lundy, Ian Burke, Gary Sice, and Liam Silke if they’re to prevail.
“After the Munster final, we all wanted to go back training straight away,” said O’Reilly.
“Even though the running in December was absolute torture, it was the best thing for us. You had lads getting sick, lads not trying to keel over. There was a great buzz once you had it done.
“Everyone was talking about Slaughtneil and how fit they are, writing us off just after we had beaten Crokes. We said to ourselves, ‘let’s prove a point that we are as fit, if not fitter than them’.
"We know we have some great footballers so if we could match Slaughtneil’s fitness, we thought we should be getting over the line.”
The full-back added: “We are well used to being written off. Even the county final against the Barrs, we were told we were going to lose.
"People seem to like writing us off. I don’t know are they hoping that we’ll eventually lose and they’ll get it right.
"I don’t take any notice of it. I have full confidence in this management and team that they are going to make the right decisions at the right time.”
The Nemo captain is a Carrigaline native who transferred at the turn of the decade. He’s never come across a tighter bunch and believes the close-knit nature of the group has been a significant factor in their progression to a first All-Ireland club final in 10 years.
“It is very unique. It is strange, at times, but lads are phenomenally close to each other. Off the pitch, lads spend an awful lot of time together.
"I might wander out on a night out with herself and if I bump into some Nemo lads, we’ll end up staying with them for the night.
“There is a great closeness. A great bond. That stands to us on the pitch when the chips are down. You can look across and you have a buddy beside you. It drives you on.”
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