That Paddy Gumley spoke the language of Nemo from the off ensured he was going to fit in as soon as he joined the famous Trabeg club two years ago.
Having moved to Cork three years ago, the Cavan man had persevered with travelling home to line out for his native Red Hills but the trips became too much. In his mid-30s, he was satisfied he had given enough to the cause, that football would become a social event for him. But then Nemo reignited his competitive streak.
“I used to travel up and down to the club at home for the first year. I felt I gave them my best years and I was 33 when I joined Nemo.
“I came through the over-age system in Nemo!” he laughs. “Junior Cs, As, intermediates and then the seniors.
“They’re a great bunch of lads. When I came down first, the likes of Jimmy Kerrigan was in giving rubs. Up our way, you wouldn’t see people with those credentials and medals doing that kind of thing. Everybody’s a five-eighth in Nemo. Even the likes of Steven O’Brien, Larry, and all them. They’re just ordinary fellas and that’s probably why I fitted in so well.”
Red Hills themselves had success. Gumley claimed junior and intermediate titles with them during the 2000s and it’s a source of regret for the 35-year-old that they didn’t build on that.
“With the talent that we had, we probably should have contested a senior final. There was some unbelievable talent, some lads who would easily walk onto the teams down here. It never materialised. We didn’t have the likes of the Jimmy Kerrigans to look up to and bring us on that step further.”
Now 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland final, Gumley has reason to pinch himself.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would have an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to. When I finished up with my club I said to myself that they got the best years out of me. What happened afterwards was only going to be a bit of craic, meet a few lads and play a bit of football. There was no ambition at all.
“But once I saw Larry (Kavanagh) and the lads doing their thing and I saw a bit of training... like, I don’t like coming second best either. It was just an automatic thing then for me to try and get on the team and keep my place. That’s pretty much it.”
On Sunday, the silver-haired fox of an inside forward was a regular threat to the Dr Crokes’ backline, especially in the first half. He picked off three points as well as firing a majestic pass to Luke Connolly for a goal chance that required Shane Murphy to make an audacious save.
“I always say that a lot of the balls Luke Connolly or Paul (Kerrigan) gives me I’ll make their minds up and vice-versa. It wasn’t a great pass from me for that goal chance but a great run by Luke that made my mind up.
“With the talent we have, there were always going to be gaps opening up and we had four or five goal chances in the first half. We didn’t take any and that was credit to their goalkeeper and corner-back.”
Even when they failed to take any of the handful of goal opportunities they manufactured, neither Gumley or his colleagues lost their heads.
They knew they were good enough to seal the deal regardless.
“The Crokes are who they are but that Nemo team doesn’t get the credit it deserves. You see the way we move in training. The Barrs game, slipping from 12 points up, puts doubts in people’s mind but we could have been 16 points up at half-time here. That’s not an exaggeration. We still went in four up and kept the scoreboard ticking over.”
He had some words of praise in particular for the Nemo rearguard who had come in for stick after the county championship.
“This Nemo team don’t get the credit they deserve. Very talented footballers. Even our defence, which is as good as you will come across and yet they were being told they were leaky and this, that, and the other.
“I wouldn’t like coming up the Nemo defence. I’ve had handier times against other teams than I have in training against them boys.”