Barry O’Driscoll is asked if the rest of Cork shared in celebrating Nemo Rangers’ Munster success back in late November.
His first reaction is a smile.
The 2,851 souls that entered Páirc Uí Rinn, when 7,591 watched the Ulster club final that same afternoon, would suggest in part that theirs is a victory enjoyed mostly by themselves.
“I don’t know, it depends who you’d ask!” he says. “I do think it would benefit Cork football just because it’s a Cork team winning and that’s good for Cork. Whether other people around the county would be happy, I’d say it’s a good mix. I think we had supporters from other clubs that I wouldn’t have expected the day we played Dr Crokes.
“I do think people would rally in behind it a bit, if you did win, but as soon as you won they’d probably clap and that would be the end of it. You’re not going to hear anymore about it.”
Nemo are the breed that define pressure as expectation and underdog’s status, as they demonstrated against Dr Crokes, as a slight.
“I suppose there is that expectation, that you should be succeeding, because of the previous success. But it (Munster) is a different competition and it’s approached a little differently,” says O’Driscoll.
“It’s almost like you’ve gotten away from the Cork championship, which is great, because those rivalries are gone. So, it’s almost as if the shackles are thrown off, and you just go out and play the next team.”
Three years ago, O’Driscoll would have sensed more of an onus on Nemo to go all the way only for Michael Quinlivan to deliver a sucker punch in the Munster final. “I’d say there was pressure back then with the group that got to the All-Ireland club final because it was felt that group were hitting their peak whereas this is a much different group of players, it’s a much younger group of players.
“People around the club would probably feel we’re good enough and they’re driving us on in that regard but I wouldn’t feel pressure because this group is still growing.
“Hopefully, we can progress past a semi-final but I think there’ll be more in this team for the next few years.”
If there is one person who typifies the promise of this Nemo team, it’s Luke Connolly, who made the Munster final his own. O’Driscoll knows the wonder and the odd moment of frustration he can inspire.
“I’d be close with Luke and Luke would wreck your head like the best of them. He’s brilliant. He has all the skill in the world and he has the confidence to match it. It’s just kind of reining in the decision-making… ‘You probably shouldn’t take that on, Luke!’
“Again, you say that and he could do something outrageous and pull it off. He’s probably one of those players that you let do his thing.”
Then there are a couple of late 30-somethings in former Kerry star Tomás Ó Sé and Paddy Gumley to add to the mix. Cavan-born forward Gumley has been quite the hit in Trabeg.
“He was originally playing Junior B or Junior A and was tipping around as a wing-back, just to pass the time I think,” says O’Driscoll.
“He said he’d give wing-back a shot.
“After a bit of a spell, people started picking up on him, ‘Who’s this fella?’ They were trying to find out a bit about him. As soon as they knew something about him they said, ‘He’s not playing with the juniors anymore — he’s coming down with the seniors!’ He’s a classy player and you’d get that from him straight away.”
O’Driscoll is full of admiration for Saturday’s opponents, Slaughtneil, who will attempt to reach a second successive football final having recently failed in their bid to make the hurling decider. To facilitate their dual pursuits, Cuala obliged with a date change last year and Nemo do now with the game taking place a week later than it would have otherwise.
“I don’t know how they’ve done it, to be honest. The only real positive that they have is that they’re winning in both codes, which helps. Winning is winning. There’s no better drug than winning. But to have to switch from hurling to football and back again, I can’t imagine how much of a nightmare that must be for their coaches, but they’ve pulled it off seamlessly.”
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