Cork SFC final: Formidable Nemo will pose Duhallow’s sternest test

Kieran Fitzgerald gives a straight answer to a straight question.

Cork SFC final: Formidable Nemo will pose Duhallow’s sternest test

Kieran Fitzgerald gives a straight answer to a straight question. He’s a selector with Duhallow, who face Nemo Rangers in Sunday’s Cork SFC final. Can the north Cork side win? “I wouldn’t be doing the job if I thought we couldn’t win. Do I think we need a lot of things to go our way? I do, as is the case with all teams in a final.

“Nemo are formidable. They’ve risen to every challenge. It’s a very serious proposal. There’s no secret with them. Nemo set out their stall — ‘this is how we’re going to play and it’s up to the opponent to come and match it’.

“We have the players who can test them and who can ask questions. It’s the team who start well and settles will have the big advantage. People say we had the easier side of the draw, but I’d dispute that. Our path to the final might seem straightforward to the outside world, but it wasn’t, just look at the CIT and Newcestown games.”

It’s Fitzgerald’s second year as a selector and he feels familiarity is a help to Duhallow this season. “I think one of the main differences is that we’re used to each other. We came together as a management group last year and it takes a certain amount of time for us to get to know the players and vice-versa.

" I reckon we’re a more experienced bunch, on and off the field, with top-notch players in Donncha O’Connor and Aidan Walsh — seasoned pros, you could almost say. Our younger players have stepped up, Paul Walsh and Eoghan McSweeney who’ve Cork senior experience, and Michael Mahony and Daniel O’Connell from Cork’s U20 All-Ireland winning side.”

The 2018 journey ended in defeat in the county final, but as Fitzgerald says, they “were very close” in that decider.

“I suppose the main lesson is that you’ve got to take your chances and you can’t take your eye off the ball at any stage. I mean, to score 3-11 and not win is almost unheard of, but unfortunately it happened last year.

“We are not doing a whole lot different. If anything, we’re probably doing a small bit less because we’ve had to be sensible regarding our training due to the number of players involved with their clubs.

There’s a fine balancing act between the demands of the clubs and the division and as a management team we’ve tried to trod that line down the middle as best we can.

“We’re always mindful of the needs of the players because if they’re not right you can forget it. They are a great group. We don’t get a chance to train as much as you’d like. We’d pick from 40 players of varying standards, but we don’t get the chance to play practice matches in order to judge players.

“We’re using championship matches to pick teams and you might be testing one or two players because there’s no other way of finding out. Much of the reason why we’re in the final is down to the attitude of the squad player.”

The pain of last year is another driving force, he adds: “There is still a bit of hurt, of course, there is. We gathered in the dressing room afterwards and said we’d give it one more go.

“If you’re going to get a crack off Nemo in a senior football championship final then that should be an incentive in itself. With no disrespect to any other team in the championship, Nemo are one of the marquee names.”

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