It’s time for Nemo Rangers to get back on the horse.
With their All-Ireland club final defeat to Corofin still raw, their senior footballers today begin the defence of their Cork SFC crown.
It’s exactly four weeks since the men from Capwell were comprehensively outplayed in the St Patrick’s Day club decider and, in the intervening month, there’s been plenty of change.
As had been signposted well in advance of the All-Ireland club final, the outgoing management team led by Larry Kavanagh stepped down, with Paul O’Donovan taking the reins. He’s joined on the line by Harry Cripps and Billy Morgan. On the playing front, Tomás Ó Sé has retired, while uncertainty surrounds the future of another one of the club’s adopted sons, 35-year old Paddy Gumley.
The players were given a week-and-a-half off following the end of their 2017 season and, when O’Donovan sent around a group text notifying them of their first get together for the 2018 campaign, his inbox was quickly flooded with replies.
“Within two hours, there were 30-odd responses. It was all positive,” said O’Donovan.
He doesn’t see it as a challenge to lift these players.
“They are a fiercely motivated bunch. I think anyone could go in there and these guys would motivate themselves.
“They are that kind of bunch. They are disappointed, of course, but they’ll get over that and come back twice as strong.
“I’ve known since January, at our AGM, when Larry decided to step down, that I’d be coming in as senior manager. I was waiting for the opportunity for the last couple of years and it has come along now.
“Larry was the minor manager before I was the minor manager, he was the U21 manager before I was the U21 manager. There was a bit of succession, if you like. It would have been great for me if they had been beaten in the first round of the championship last year!
“They have set the bar very high. If they can get motivated again, we can go a long way.”
His background means O’Donovan is familiar to these players. There’ll be no process of getting to know one another and that’s a significant plus, with such a small window between last season and the current campaign.
“I’ve coached most of these guys, maybe not Paul Kerrigan or Aidan O’Reilly. Come to think of it, I had Paul at minor, 13 or 14 years ago. Barry O’Driscoll, too, when he was minor, 13 or 14 years ago. I know them all. They know me.
“Win or lose, we’ll have to take a break after this game, because these guys need to recharge the batteries.”
If there is one fear ahead of today’s contest against Clyda Rovers, it is that there will be a hangover from a campaign which stretched from the winter of 2016 to March 17, this year.
“Guys are going 15 months and then, four weeks later, you are playing in the first round. That’s hard to manage, whether there is a change of management or no change in management. We’ll take four or five weeks after this, then we’ll have nine or 10 weeks preparing for the next round in July.
“Being county champions is a fantastic achievement, but what it does for us this year is put a huge target on our back. No matter what we do this year, every team is going to be motivated to take on the county champions.”
In attempting to replicate what the club achieved last year, O’Donovan and his backroom team don’t intend to change too much.
Getting the team to continue playing the Nemo way is the priority.
“I don’t think there is much you can change with this crowd, just a bit of tweaking here and there. What I tried to do as minor and U21 manager was to prepare lads to play senior football. That’s what I’ll expect from these guys: To play the way they have always played. We’ll work on our fitness. There was nothing wrong with it last year, we’ll just try to be better this year. We’ll work on our skill. Again, there was nothing wrong here last year. We’ll just try and be better.”
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