Douglas football manager Mick Evans has rubbished the suggestion the club suffers from an inferiority complex when lining out against Nemo Rangers.
Sunday, in Páirc Uí Rinn (3.45pm), the city neighbours meet in the second of the Cork SFC semi-finals. For Douglas, the goal is a first-ever senior championship win over Nemo and, in the process, secure progression to what would be just the club’s second county final.
Nemo, far more familiar with this stage of the competition, are bidding for a record 25th appearance in the decider. Douglas’s one and only final involvement was back in 2008. They came up short by eight points that day to who else but this weekend’s opponents.
Goalkeeper Brian Boyle and Eoin Cadogan are the two survivors from the 2008 class. And it is fair to say their experiences of coming up against Nemo, in the championship, haven’t improved a jot in the intervening 11 years.
There was the 2011 Round 4 defeat by a solitary point (1-8 to 0-10). Similarly close was the 2013 quarter-final, which Nemo snuck on a 0-12 to 1-7 scoreline. But most frustrating of all was the missed opportunity at the fourth-round hurdle in 2015, Douglas failing to safeguard a four-point final-quarter lead.
They were in pole position in the first-half but lost Eoin Cadogan to a black card. Nemo, resilient as ever, fashioned a draw, and saw off a Douglas second-half fight-back in the replay to win by seven. Only five of that Douglas team are likely to be part of Mick Evans’ starting 15 Sunday. Those players are still chasing a first senior championship win over the neighbours, so too is the club as a whole.
Why is it that Douglas haven’t yet claimed a win over Nemo in the Cork SFC? Is there some sense of an inferiority complex at play?
“No, absolutely not,” said Evans.
I’ve never heard that mentioned in the club, it has never come up. I wouldn’t be worried about that at all. Nemo has a history behind them. We have to try and create ours. It is as simple as that.
"We have a lot of young lads who would have beaten Nemo at underage so history doesn’t bother them. They are not worried about what happened going back the years. They’ll see Sunday as a one-off game, unrelated to the past.”
Evans said he and his players set themselves two targets at the beginning of the year. One was to achieve league promotion back to Division 2, which they succeeded in doing back in July. The other was to try and bring the Andy Scannell Cup to Douglas for the first time.
Last month’s quarter- and semi-final draws didn’t make that latter aim any easier, Douglas finding themselves on the same side of the draw as three recent champions (Nemo, Ballincollig, and the Barr’s). Ballincollig were beaten and held to 0-9 in the quarters and Evans knows they’ll need to be similarly frugal Sunday.
“Any group I am involved in, if you don’t have a work-ethic, you don’t play. With these guys, they have delivered on everything that has been asked of them. The fight in you reveals a lot about who you are. These lads give everything each time they go out. They have worked as hard as any team I’ve been involved in.
“Nemo are one of the best football clubs in the country. It is only by playing against the best that you improve yourself both mentally and physically. We are under no illusions as to the challenge in front of us, but we are up to that challenge.”
With a little help from outside, Nemo are bidding to reach a fifth final this decade alone. During their run to last year’s All-Ireland club final, much was made — and rightly so — of the contributions of 35-year old Cavan native Paddy Gumley. Having started out with the Junior Cs when transferring to the Trabeg club, he quickly progressed up through the ranks to nail down a starting place on Larry Kavanagh’s team.
James McDermott is the latest non-native to don the Nemo colours. A GP by trade, the midfielder was a member of the Roscommon senior panel as recent as 2016, featuring in three of their Connacht championship games that summer.
“He trained with us last year. This year, he knew he was going to be in Cork for another 12 months to two years, so he asked could he join,” explains Nemo manager Paul O’Donovan.
“He was outstanding against the Barr’s. His fielding was a feature of that game, in what were difficult circumstances. He has blended in very well. People might say, ‘Nemo are taking a player’ but the way I look at it, if he doesn’t come with us he will go with someone else. What’s the point in playing against him?”
O’Donovan concluded: “There is always a high expectation in Nemo, that goes with the territory. Last year was very disappointing. We limped out rather meekly in the quarter-final. There has been a grá to get back to a county final. Sunday is a huge game for us. We know we are down as favourites but that means nothing to us.”