Nemo Rangers manager Paul O’Donovan would prefer if the Cork SFC was a club-only competition. Nemo’s opponents in Sunday’s decider are Duhallow, the divisional side appearing in the Cork football final for a second consecutive year.
It is 15 years since a division last took ownership of the Andy Scannell Cup and were Duhallow to edge out Nemo this weekend, it would be the first time since 1997 that divisional teams win both the Cork hurling and football championship in the same year.
Recently departed Imokilly hurling manager Fergal Condon is adamant the motion brought to county convention last December, which sought to end divisional involvement in the Cork senior championships, was prompted by their back-to-back success. The motion ended up being comprehensively beaten, with Imokilly completing the three in a row last Sunday at the expense of the very club — Glen Rovers — who led the charge to remove divisional teams.
Nemo boss Paul O’Donovan has no problem in admitting he wanted Glen Rovers to win last Sunday, primarily because they are a club team. When asked for his view on divisional involvement in the county championship, O’Donovan said he prefers to see clubs coming out on top.
“I prefer to see clubs win it. That is my own feeling on it. I’ve always felt that way. I’ve nothing against Duhallow, nothing against Imokilly. Nothing against [divisions] because they have every right to go into the competition, but my own preference is that I like to see clubs win it.”
He does acknowledge a strong divisional team boosts the competitiveness of the championship, but is clear in his views.
I’d like to see a club championship. I would prefer to see the Glen win [last] Sunday. I went down there and I hoped the Glen win, they are a club side.
O’Donovan said Duhallow’s forward unit — which contains Donncha O’Connor, current Cork footballer Eoghan McSweeney, and Cork U20 hurler Conor O’Callaghan — is the strongest Nemo will have encountered this season.
“The Barr’s have Stephen Sherlock and Douglas have Sean Powter and Shane Kingston, but Duhallow’s six forwards can all play and all score. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve all got inter-county experience, Cork U20s, minors, juniors and seniors, so they’re probably the best balanced forward unit we’re going to come up against.”
It is a help then that the Nemo rearguard has been particularly frugal in recent outings. Their defence kept 2018 winners St Finbarr’s scoreless for 28 minutes of their quarter-final meeting, while last time out, Douglas were held for 22 minutes of the first half and did not score from play from the 32nd minute onward. Nemo’s average concession is 0-9 per game.
“Their discipline, too, has been very good. We are not conceding frees, which is important, particularly when you are coming up against a team that has a freetaker like Donncha O’Connor.
“We’ve done an awful lot of defending drills, practising our tackling and our discipline. In the last two games, against two strong teams, there was no shot on goalkeeper Micheál Aodh [Martin]. That’s a testimony to the guys doing their job outside him.
“Key on Sunday will be just turning up and doing what we have been doing all year. We are looking for everyone to go out and do their job the best they can, play the way we have been playing, particularly against the Barr’s and Douglas. If we reproduce that, I think the scoreboard and the result will look after itself.”
Colin O’Brien, injured in the semi-final, will undergo a fitness test tomorrow, while midfielder Peter Morgan, who missed the Douglas victory, is available.
“Colin has passed all the stress-testing on his hamstring so far. I’m expecting him to come through. Peter’s injury has cleared up. It gives us a headache in terms of selection, but a nice headache.”