Four years they’ve waited, but results in Páirc Uí Rinn and west Clare mean Nemo Rangers will have the opportunity next month to exact revenge for that never-to-be-forgotten Munster final defeat of 2015.
But before we cast an eye on that upcoming provincial decider against old foes Clonmel Commercials, let's first look at how comfortably they got there - Paul O’Donovan’s charges routing a hapless Austin Stacks outfit at Pairc Ui Rinn.
It was well documented in advance of this Munster club SFC semi-final how Austin Stacks had not played a championship game in seven weeks, were minus the services of Greg Horan, Conor Jordan, and Ferdia O’Brien, and only got confirmation last Sunday week that they would be representing Kerry in the Munster club series.
None of these mitigating factors, though, can excuse the dreadfully tame effort they offered up here.
Wayne Quillinan’s side failed to raise a flag of any description during the opening 17 minutes of the first half, Shane O’Callaghan’s point to break their duck followed by a second barren spell which ran for a quarter of an hour. Their second score did not arrive until first-half stoppages, it a Sean Quilter free. It meant they finished the half with just a solitary point from play and 10 adrift of their opponents.
Fifteen minutes of the second period had elapsed before they managed a third score, Wayne Guthrie’s point followed by 13 further unfruitful minutes.
To sum up: Nemo’s half-back line kicked more from play in the first-half than Austin Stacks managed across the hour.
Quillnan was at a loss to explain why they never raised a gallop. He said they had not only travelled in hope, rather they travelled in the belief they would topple Nemo.
“We felt we came up here in the right frame of mind. You can talk about Nemo having plenty of games [under their belt], but we just didn’t show up at all, in any aspect of our game, and that is hugely disappointing. It will take a while to get over this,” Quillinan began.
“We actually believed we were going to win it. That’s being straight up. People will think I’m off my rocker for saying that, but, with sport, you’ve got to believe in what you are doing and what you are about. But today, as a collective, we didn’t show up at all. A lot of the stuff we worked on, we didn’t carry it across the white line.”
Stacks’ non-performance is sure to lead to discussion in the Kingdom as to the merits of allowing the club champions represent Kerry in the event of a division winning the county championship, particularly when the club championship is wrapped up as early as April.
“We wanted to put in a performance to vindicate why we were here in this situation and to put to bed the argument about the club championship, but we didn’t do that.
“There is going to be a lot of soul-searching and questions asked of myself, to be honest. I’ve got to look at my own position.”
Their outstanding opportunity to sow doubt in the Nemo mindset arrived inside the opening 63 seconds, Shane O’Callaghan twice slipping inside the cover for goal chances. Micheál Aodh Martin and Aidan O’Reilly kept both shots from crossing the line and, truth be told, there was only one team in it thereafter, Nemo cruising into the club’s 19th Munster final.
Separate bursts yielding four and five unanswered points had the Cork champions 0-9 to 0-1 ahead just after the half-hour mark. All three members of their half-back line - Kevin O’Donovan, Stephen Cronin, and Jack Horgan - had found the target by the 19th minute, while the midfield pairing of Alan O’Donovan and James McDermott were utterly dominant under the opposition restart. Paul Kerrigan was pulling the strings further forward, as well as throwing over two points, and it was he who played through Kevin O’Donovan for their opening goal four minutes into first-half stoppages.
His brother Alan supplied goal number two on 44 minutes, by which time Kevin had kicked the point of the day from out on the Boreenmanna Road sideline and Kerrigan had swelled his own haul to 0-5.
The lack of stern or sustained examination didn’t bother manager Paul O’Donovan.
“We have 35/36 in the panel and some of the best tests we have had is our A versus B games. We are delighted to be still playing at this time of year and delighted to be in a Munster final.”
Talk of that one-point defeat to Clonmel four years ago will be impossible to escape over the next fortnight.
“We looked like we were going to win that game. We were two points up in the 62nd minute, if I remember right. A high ball comes in, Michael Quinlivan wins it and slips it into the goal. No matter what sport you are in, that kind of score is a gut punch. Obviously we have recovered since then, won two counties, and so it will have no relevance.”
O’Donovan concluded: “I’d be happy to toss if it's Thurles or Páirc Uí Rinn [for the Munster final venue]. If it’s their home ground or Páirc Uí Rinn, we’ll go neutral.”
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan (0-5); K O’Donovan (1-2); A O’Donovan (1-0); M Cronin, B O’Driscoll (0-2 each); S Cronin, J Horgan, L Connolly, C Horgan, S Martin, C Dalton (0-1 each).
Scorers for Austin Stacks: S Quilter (free), F Mangan, S O’Callaghan, W Guthrie, D Fitzmaurice (0-1 each).
NEMO RANGERS: MA Martin; A Cronin, A O’Reilly, B Murphy; K O’Donovan, S Cronin, J Horgan; A O’Donovan, J McDermott; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; M Cronin, L Connolly, C Horgan.
Subs: C Dalton for M Cronin, R Dalton for O’Brien (inj), K Fulignati for McDermott (all 48); K Histon for Murphy (49); S Martin for K O’Donovan, B Cripps for O’Driscoll (both 56).
AUSTIN STACKS: D O’Brien; J O’Shea, B Shanahan, D Casey; C Griffin, R Shanahan, J Morgan; J O’Connor, M O’Donnell; F Mangan, S O’Callaghan, C O’Reilly; S Quilter, K Donaghy, W Guthrie.
Subs: M O’Gara for B Shanahan (23 mins, inj); D O’Brien for Quilter, P McCarthy for O’Reilly (both 38); D Fitzmaurice for O’Gara (48, bc); S Walsh for Griffin (49); G Fitzgerald for O’Callaghan (52).
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipp).