“Unusual,” is Dr Crokes selector Harry O’Neill’s reply when quizzed on the coin toss used to decide the venue for Sunday’s Munster club final against Nemo Rangers.
Not since 2011 has a club enjoyed home comforts on Munster final afternoon and on that occasion Cork champions UCC held no major gripes to the game being played at Fitzgerald Stadium. That probably had something to do with the fact that over half of UCC’s starting team hailed from the Kingdom.
When Nemo and Crokes won their respective semi-finals a fortnight ago, it was expected that Mallow, as had been the case for the delayed 2010 final between the pair, would again play host.
Subsequent to our chat with Crokes’ Harry O’Neill, we learned the Killarney club had expressed misgivings to Munster Council about fixing the decider for Mallow given Nemo had played their semi-final there. Rather ironic, this, given Nemo had not wanted to entertain Adare 40km north of Cork City.
Home advantage belonged to Nemo for their semi-final meeting with the Limerick champions and management were keen for the fixture to go ahead at either Páirc Uí Rinn or Páirc Uí Chaoimh.The latter, they were told, was closed for the remainder of the year and instead of Páirc Uí Rinn then being opened up, Nemo were sent up to Mallow as part of a double-header with An Gaeltacht and Mallow.
The Gaelic Grounds did come up in the discussion when thrashing out a home for Sunday’s game, but, in the end, it was decided to toss a coin. Nemo won and with Páirc Uí Chaoimh under lock and key, Páirc Uí Rinn was pencilled in.
“It is unusual that you’d toss for a final. Any other Munster final we’ve been involved in has been played at a neutral venue,” said O’Neill.
“If the coin toss went our way, we’d be across the road in Fitzgerald Stadium and we’d be delighted with it. Nemo will be slightly more familiar with the ground than we will. We are not making a big deal of it.”
They’ve not met in Munster since January of 2011. There hasn’t been a challenge game between the pair since that year either, Paul Kerrigan revealed this week. O’Neill recalls vividly when the kingpins of Cork football were regular visitors to Lewis Road.
“Before we were contesting Munster finals or winning Kerry county championships, we always had a good working relationship with Nemo. They came down for challenges quite a lot. The good thing about Nemo is that any time they came down here for a challenge, they always brought a full deck of cards with them. I remember times Colin Corkery was out there getting the jersey ripped off him. That is when they were at the peak of their powers. Nemo haven’t been as successful in this decade as they have been in previous decades. Tradition is huge for these people. When they get to a final, they believe they can win it. They have lads that played in 2010 and we still have guys who are hurting from 2010. It should be a good challenge.”
Crokes have safely negotiated seven fences to reach a sixth provincial decider in eight years. Their average winning margin is 11 points. They’ve conceded just one goal, that against South Kerry in the county final. O’Neill is predicting an intense scrutiny of their rearguard unit.
“They have Luke Connolly, Paul Kerrigan, and Barry O’Driscoll. There’s Jack Horgan, Paddy Gumley, and Colin O’Brien too. You come up against teams that have one, maybe, two marquee forwards. Nemo have six forwards who’ll require attention. They have the firepower and definitely the strongest forward unit we’ll have met in a long time.”
Crokes’ forward Brian Looney joined the team at the age of 18 back in 2006. He’s 30 now and appreciative of everything that comes his way.
“I got a taste of an All-Ireland final in my first campaign. It was 10 years before we got back to the final. It wasn’t as easy as I initially thought. We’d some tough losses along the way. That probably made last March all the sweeter. One of the reasons we’ve had a good year this year is that we’ve been able to park that win when we needed to. We don’t expect anything to fall into our lap because we are All-Ireland champions.”
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