'Can we get back to Munster final level? I don't know'

Nemo Rangers manager Larry Kavanagh takes a straightforward view of tomorrow’s All-Ireland club semi-final; reproduce what took them past Dr Crokes in the Munster final and Nemo should be present at GAA HQ on St Patrick’s Day.

'Can we get back to Munster final level? I don't know'

It is a logic hard to argue with, even allowing for the fact their opponents this weekend are chasing a third All-Ireland final appearance in four years.

On November 26 last year, Nemo Rangers lowered the flag of All-Ireland club champions Dr Crokes on a scoreline of 0-16 to 0-11 and yet it hardly flattered them.

The Cork champions spurned six goal chances over the course of the hour and their four-point interval advantage that Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn was an insult to the mockery they had made of the pre-match odds and Crokes’ standing as the kingpins of the club game.

Luke Connolly helped himself to 10 points during a fine individual performance and was excellently supported by Paddy Gumley, Alan O’Donovan, and Kevin Fulignati. It had been a while since the club reached such dizzying heights in the presence of vaunted opposition.

“It is a valid question; can we replicate our Munster final performance and if we do, is it enough? I think it is,” says Kavanagh.

“If you produce exactly what you did against Crokes and it is not good enough, then fair play to Slaughtneil.”

The sole negative with regard to that Munster final display is it is three months in the rearview mirror. Nemo, says Kavanagh, himself a veteran of four All-Ireland semi-final wins, would happily have faced the Ulster champions a week after securing a 16th provincial crown.

“We didn’t need the break. We’d have been happy to see Slaughtneil the following Sunday. We’d have gone straight for it. Can we get back up to that level now, I don’t know.”

Management were keen to give the players much of December off, knowing they would still have an eight-week run-in to tomorrow’s game when they returned at the beginning of January. The players, though, wanted to stay going.

“We were back out on the Thursday night after the Crokes match. The players were kinda afraid they would pick up bad habits if they took a week or two off. They didn’t want to lose their sharpness.”

The club’s last appearance at this juncture was the spring of 2011. From the current team, there are four survivors — Aidan O’Reilly, Barry O’Driscoll, Paul Kerrigan, and Colin O’Brien. The manager doesn’t see experience — or lack thereof, as is the case here — being a problem.

“I think the general public is reading too much into the fact this is Nemo’s first semi-final since 2011 and Slaughtneil’s third in four years.

“It is not a big thing for a club like Nemo. If you have some young fella going out, there’ll be someone close to him on the pitch who’s played at this level before. People were saying Crokes had the edge in terms of Munster final experience but we coped with that.”

He added: “Slaughtneil are the talk of the place and are getting all the plaudits from the bookies because of what they have done in the last couple of years. It is unusual for a team to have all their best lads in defence.

“The names that are always being mentioned are the two McKaigues, Karl and Chrissy, and Brendan Rogers. Usually, it is the centre-forward and full-forward you look out for, not the centre-back and full-back. They are just so eye-catching.

“In attack, I’m not sure they have a forward who, like Luke Connolly, might go out and score three goals and two points in a game, but all their forwards contribute one, two or three points every time they go out.”

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