Rossie import McDermott given a warm welcome as he eyes first senior win with Nemo

James McDermott confesses to having had a couple of sleepless nights last winter.

Rossie import McDermott given a warm welcome as he eyes first senior win with Nemo

James McDermott confesses to having had a couple of sleepless nights last winter.

The GAA’s transfer deadline was looming and the former Roscommon midfielder had a decision to make. Stick or twist.

In July of last year, Eilis McDermott’s work as a dermatologist brought herself and her husband to Cork city. And while James continued to travel back up home every weekend to line out for his native Roscommon Gaels, midweek training was done in the company of the Nemo seniors at their Trabeg base.

McDermott’s brother-in-law is friendly with James Masters and so he was the initial point of contact within the club. A number for Nemo manager Paul O’Donovan was forwarded on and when McDermott got in touch to know would it be okay if he fell in for a couple of Tuesday training sessions to keep sharp, the response couldn’t have been more hospitable.

“When I came down for the first training with them last July, the management said, ‘this is James McDermott from Roscommon, he is going to be training with us for a while and just give him a good welcome’. And straightaway, the lads were over to shake my hand and included me in all the sessions.

“Paul would text me every week letting me know what days they were training and that I was more than welcome to join them. They were great, really,” McDermott recalls.

In late September of last year, Roscommon Gaels missed out on a place in the Roscommon SFC final by the narrowest of margins and thereafter, McDermott began to ponder if it made sense to commit to a full season in 2019 of six-hour round-trips up west every weekend. The alternative was to follow in the footsteps of Tomás Ó Sé and Paddy Gumley in transferring to Nemo.

“Before I made my decision, I did have a couple of sleepless nights,” he admits.

“I ran it by my family, Eilis, the lads in the club at home, and with Paul [O’Donovan] here. But once I made my decision to transfer, I was happy and comfortable with what I had decided.

“Any time this year I found myself back up home watching the lads play in the Roscommon championship, I thought to myself, no, I am happy with my decision and happy playing down in Cork.

“Transferring to Nemo has helped me settle in Cork. We moved in July of 2018 and because I was travelling up west every weekend from July to October, we couldn’t settle at all.

“The minute the football was over we were able to settle much better and enjoy Cork at the weekends. To make connections here with the lads in Nemo, it has been great. They’ve been so welcoming.”

He too has made an impression on the Nemo faithful, on and off the field. The 31-year-old GP, whose work is split between the UCC student health department and a practice on Patrick Street, has started all four of their championship games this season at midfield. He lasted the hour in all bar one.

“He was outstanding against the Barr’s in the quarter-final,” said manager Paul O’Donovan.

“His fielding was a feature of that game, in what were difficult circumstances. He has blended in very well. I can see him going to watch other Nemo games, as well, which is very impressive.

“For a guy that just joined us, it is great to see that he is going to watch the intermediates and juniors.”

Added Paul Kerrigan: “Since we got into the thick of it from the start of summer, James has progressed and fitted in really well. A real workhorse. Very sensible. Uses the ball well, which always fits in well out here, and a very nice guy. We are happy to have him. I think he is enjoying it, which is, hopefully, a good sign for our club.”

Having spent 14 years trying — and failing — to win a Roscommon SFC title with the Gaels, McDermott, six months after making his championship debut in the Nemo colours, is now one hour from pocketing the county medal he has long craved.

I won nothing at senior or underage with Roscommon Gaels. We lost the county senior final in 2017 and the minor in 2005. I also lost a Connacht U21 final with Roscommon and a Connacht senior final in 2016 (he played three championship games for the county that summer). Plenty of silver medals.

“The day we played Douglas in the semi-final, Roscommon Gaels were playing the county final. I thought they’d win it this year.

“I was hoping to come off the field with us having made a county final and Roscommon Gaels having won their county championship. But while we got through, they, unfortunately, came up short.”

A central cog in the Padraig Pearses team which overcame Roscommon Gaels in the recent Roscommon final was Niall Daly, who won a Cork SFC medal with UCC back in 2011. McDermott, then, is hoping to become the second Roscommon man this decade to acquaint himself with the Andy Scannell Cup.

“Niall and I played midfield for Roscommon in 2016. I also worked with Niall’s mother in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. A great guy. Hopefully, I can follow in his footsteps.

“It won’t be easy, though. Duhallow looked good against Newcestown. Even looking back on the video of last year’s final against the Barr’s, they were impressive.

“Paul and Aidan Walsh at midfield look formidable. They are athletic, good footballers. They can all play football in Duhallow. There is no weak link. I think it’ll be a quick game.

“The top few teams in Cork are certainly at a higher level than those in Roscommon. Even just the training with Nemo, I’ve been very impressed with the quality. And the numbers too are very strong. That is the main difference I find from the club up at home.

“Because most of the lads are living away in Dublin, you might not always have the numbers for training. Down here, everyone bar Alan Cronin is based in Cork. Numbers and quality at training are the two big differences.”

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