Kevin Murphy (Cork)
Dr Crokes 1/6, The Nire 9/2, Draw 12/1
The Nire full-back has minded the house with good authority in recent outings — both John Hayes of Carbery Rangers and Ballinacourty’s Gary Hurney were kept on tight leashes — and seeing as Cooper has spent much of Crokes’ run to the Munster final on the edge of the opposition square, it’s an obvious fit.
There’s history there too. And whatever about Cooper’s recollection of their first meeting, O’Gorman is likely to never forget it. Ten years ago next month, a 21-year old O’Gorman stood in behind the Kerry forward on Munster club final afternoon at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Conditions are best described as greasy, with O’Gorman one of four Nire defenders to start without gloves.
A minute and a half into proceedings, he let slip a James Fleming sideline and Gooch pounced for the opening goal.
On 11 minutes, Brian Wall, the team captain and former Waterford hurler, also fumbled possession. Quick hands from Kieran O’Leary, Andrew Kennelly and Brian Looney had Cooper tapping home again.
“Things went right for Cooper,” says O’Gorman, looking back on the club’s maiden provincial final appearance. “For that first goal, I dropped a ball, he caught it in behind me and stuck it in the net. We were chasing the game after their two early goals. We put in a good performance but it always felt as if the Kerry champions were keeping us at arm’s length.”
“I don’t ever think too much about who I am marking. You need to back yourself. I’ll back myself whoever I am marking.”
Now 31, O’Gorman has spent the last 10 seasons operating in the Waterford defence. There’ve been far more low notes than high; the 26-point hammering away to Kerry in the 2013 Munster SFC, the 22-point mauling away to Tipperary last year, to recall but a few. Through all these heavy beatings, though, he’s never allowed his belief dim. You’ll find no inferiority complex here.
At club level, he doesn’t see the difference between a Kerry and Waterford club team. Go back to the 2014 Munster decider. Austin Stacks, it is his assertion, didn’t overcome The Nire because Kerry clubs have a near-unbroken tradition of bettering Waterford clubs. No, just like 2006, mistakes cost the underdogs.
“We had a six-point lead that day against Stacks,” continues O’Gorman. “They had a man sent off early and in that position, I was thinking this is a game we could win, even if there were only 20 minutes gone. We made a couple of mistakes and let in two goals.
“Belief was never an issue. There were mistakes on both days. Nobody wants to make mistakes. We’re not that kind of group that we fear others. When we’re with the club, we fancy ourselves to go play anyone. We don’t look at the Kerry champions in awe and think we can’t compete with these fellas.
“I don’t think there is a difference between a Kerry club and a Waterford club in football or hurling.
“Lismore played Kilmoyley in the Munster Club IHC final and Kilmoyley wouldn’t have feared Lismore. It doesn’t matter where the club is. Each club has their ups and downs. They can go through phases where they are very strong and are then very weak. At the moment, we are very strong. This is our third Munster final in 10 years.
“We’re trying to maximise what we have at the moment. Crokes, too, are very strong but I don’t think being from Kerry is going to win Crokes the Munster final.”
A dual club, where 12 football starters line out for the Fourmilewater hurlers, O’Gorman reckons they’ve been fortunate in how the local fixtures schedule fell in their favour this year. Take even the eight days they had to prepare for the Munster semi-final against Carbery Rangers. Stradbally were afforded less than 24 hours last year, while The Nire’s county winning teams of ‘93 and 2008 didn’t even get to compete in Munster as the local championship ran too late.
“Also, this is the third year where Benji Whelan has managed both the hurling and football teams. The club had always kept them separate.
“But the players wanted a single management model to stop the pulling and over-training. Benji has got us to two Munster finals in three years.
“That’s not bad going. Next Sunday, hopefully, the result will be in our favour. This group has won four county titles. But we haven’t won any Munster.
“It would be amazing to be part of the first group that won a Munster.”