When free from inter-county duty, Kerrigan would be one of the first arrivals for club training. He’d tog off, head down to the far goal along with Barry O’Driscoll and the pair would kick frees for the hour. Even during Kelleher Shield games, he was on the line serving as a water carrier.
It sent out a message to the team’s foot soldiers no man was above the cause. Indeed, Kerrigan says it’s an unwritten rule you have to be seen in the club. Regardless of your standing at inter-county level, tradition demands you attend every Nemo Rangers gathering. Failure to do so you’ll suffer the consequences.
“With the Cork seniors, U21s and club U21s all away recently we are only getting together now as a team. The most important thing from the perspective of lads who are away is that you want to get back there,” he remarked.
“You want to be down watching the lads training, see what they are working on. You have to be seen in our club, to be watching, to be present. It’s an unwritten rule. It’s not acceptable to start showing face just when the Cork scene is taking a break. That’s not good enough. Players and management won’t accept that.”
Selector Larry Kavanagh, a county championship winning captain back in the early ’00s, said the tradition first came to light under Billy Morgan’s stewardship. Nemo’s sizeable Cork representation was impacting on club endeavours as numbers simply weren’t turning out for training.
“Back in the ’90s when Billy was involved we could have six or seven lads away playing with Cork. If they weren’t coming down showing face the whole thing was in danger of falling apart,” he noted.
“They would come down, tog off and kick a few frees. Other times they would just stand there. Their presence was a big boost though. It was great to morale to see that these lads weren’t above club training.”
Nemo launch their championship campaign against Dohenys this evening and Kerrigan accepts the sizeable expectation shouldered by the players. The backdoor route was travelled successfully last year, but supporters will not tolerate a second successive opening round defeat.
Kerrigan recalls their 2013 season, one that ultimately cast as a failure.
“Even though we won the league, it would have been seen as a bit of a failure we didn’t win the championship. We only lost to one team in either league or championship and it was still seen as a failure. It is three years without a county title. When I came on first we won four-in-a-row and then we won a fifth. That is what we are striving to get back to.”
Kavanagh explains how the management were afforded leeway as it was the first year of Stephen O’Brien’s tenure. That, however, will not be the case this summer.
“To your face last year they said ‘well done on getting to a county final on your first year in management’. Behind you then they are saying ‘a county title was left behind’. If you look at the team that we put out against Castlehaven in the first round and the team that went out in the county final, while the personnel would be same, there was a host of positional changes. This year there is no leeway. Win the county or you’re a failure. It is fair enough too. If you aiming less…what are you in it for.”
A sentiment shared by Kerrigan. “The goal is to win the county, it always is.”