How best to schedule the Cork county championships is a conundrum which nobody has been able to fully crack as yet.
First-round winners are often left kicking their heels for up to four months and the point that you’re better off losing your first match is made only half-jokingly by managers and players.
Nemo Rangers beat Ilen Rovers in their SFC opener on May 2 and are back in action against Douglas in Sunday’s fourth-round tie in Páirc Uí Rinn (3pm). Their wing-back Colin ‘Tucker’ O’Brien describes it as being like “preparing for two championships”.
“If you get over round one at the first attempt you’re in a little bit of limbo,” he says, “you don’t know when you’re playing next so it’s like having a second pre-season.
“Nothing is set in stone because so much depends on Cork and then you might have to play at short notice once they get knocked out. It is hard for club players, especially when you might have a lot of other commitments outside of football.
“For those who have wives or girlfiends and families, the best option is nearly to take a break early in the summer if you’ve won the first round.
“We’re lucky our management is very good at dealing with that, they’ve sorted our schedules very well so that we are where we need to be when the matches do come around.”
With a team in the premier intermediate championship and an U21 side facing into a county final next Friday, numbers have been a problem for Nemo in challenge and league matches — manager Steven O’Brien even made an appearance against St Finbarr’s. Given the travails in arranging such games, it’s an occupational hazard.
“Arranging challenge matches or even games in the Kelleher Shield can be difficult,” O’Brien says.
“So many clubs are involved in both codes they mightn’t be able to play on a given day, so it can be a bit of a nightmare. We’ve ended up having to travel to play a few games but we’ve had three league games too, we lost to Ilen and Skibb [O’Donovan Rossa] and then beat Clon last week.
“You wouldn’t be too worried about the losses because we’ve a lot of U21s in the senior panel and they’ve been preparing for a county final, and the intermediates were involved in their championship until two weeks ago. For games like that, a lot depends on who you have available on the day.”
While Cork wing-back Stephen Cronin will be missing on Sunday after a leg fracture against Clonakilty last week, otherwise they should have a strong squad.
Nemo have never lost to Douglas in the senior championship, though the game in 2013 was a close call. O’Brien knows that the neighbours will be gunning for them.
“I can understand how they would have felt bereaved with the way the game went two years ago,” he says.
“We were trailing for a lot of it and it was only in the last quarter we pushed ahead. Even in the 2008 final, though, we won by eight points but that didn’t really reflect how the game went.
“When it comes to Nemo-Douglas games, because of the closeness and the fact that the players are so familiar with each other, the formbook goes out the window really. It’s going to be a battle, like it always has been against them and like it always will be.”
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