Towards the end of our conversation, Nemo Rangers goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin is asked what it would mean to get back to an All-Ireland club football final.
The reply offered, free of even the slightest bit of arrogance or entitlement, provides a most telling insight into the Nemo mindset.
“To be honest, getting back wouldn’t mean a lot,” states Martin — rather emphatically at that.
“Winning is the sole aim for this group. We are well aware that it is 2003 when Nemo last won an All-Ireland club. It has been a long time. We want to be the team from the club to put our name on that trophy next.
“There is a reason it has been a long time — it is such a hard competition to win.
Winning it means everything. To do that, we have to try and get over Corofin, which is a massive challenge.
Nemo’s most recent All-Ireland club final appearance, in March 2018, brought them up close and personal with today’s opponents.
And with Corofin having taken the Cork City outfit for 2-19 that chastening St Patrick’s Day at GAA HQ, Martin found himself placing the ball on the kicking tee far more often than he would have liked.
All bar 0-2 of Corofin’s total came from open play, with the Nemo goalkeeper having a bird’s eye view as to the pace and movement of the north Galway men.
“Their forward play is so fluid that your backs don’t necessarily end up playing in any one position over the course of the game. You see that happening [in front of you].
“Ahead of the 2018 final, we had looked at a lot of their games from that campaign, but that final was very different to how they had played that season.
We would have been better off looking at their final against Slaughtneil from a couple of years previous. The way they exploited the space in Croke Park was very impressive.
“In fairness, they did it last year as well, against Crokes. They’ve given a couple of exhibitions over the past couple of years in Croke Park. Some of their forward play is excellent. We have definitely taken learnings from that game. To be honest, we’ve learned from every defeat.”
There’s been a small bit of change to the Nemo defence since that club final hammering. Young Brian Murphy has come in at corner-back, while Jack Horgan has revelled in his redeployment from midfield to left half-back.
Collectively, Paul O’Donovan’s rearguard has rarely misstepped in the club’s run to this afternoon’s All-Ireland semi-final. No team managed to kick more than 10 scores against Nemo in either the county or Munster championship last year; they conceded just 0-20 across their three provincial outings; their average concession per game in 2019 was a most frugal 0-8; and Martin’s goal has not been breached for a single green flag since August 17.
It’ll very much need to be the same again, and more, if three-in-a-row chasing Corofin are to be toppled.
“Our stats are way better defensively, but you have got to be right at your peak against Corofin or they’ll exploit you. We can’t focus too much on them, though. We place a lot of focus on what we are going to do ourselves, as much as what Corofin are going to do.
If I can get through Saturday without touching the ball, I’d take that.
Changes to the scheduling of the All-Ireland club series meant Nemo found themselves with just a five-week gap between the Munster decider and today’s outing, far, far shorter than the 11- and 12-week breaks once afforded to provincial club champions.
Martin much prefers the new arrangement, content with the quiet Christmas it dictated.
“The big gap didn’t make sense. I think this way makes much more sense. Ideally, you’d get to a situation where you could run it off before Christmas.
“There hasn’t been a Christmas in the sense that we haven’t really been going out, but it hasn’t been too bad having a quiet one either. I haven’t missed it as much as I thought.
"I met up with my friends a couple of nights. They would have been going out, I’d meet them at 6pm and be gone by 7pm. I presume it was the same for most of the team. To be fair to Paul [O’Donovan], he is not rigid at all, but we all know ourselves.
“Essentially, we ignored the fact it was Christmas and just trained away as normal. We didn’t train Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we did train St Stephen’s Day.
With training on St Stephen’s Day, there was no fear of over-eating on Christmas Day. And if you did, you paid for it at training. It was a morning session, an enjoyable one at that.
“All going well, there are plenty of Christmases ahead of all of us. But these All-Ireland semi-finals are bonuses.”