CHAMPIONS Nemo Rangers have major injury woes going into their opening game of the new premier county senior football championship, according to manager Paul O’Donovan.
The 21-time winners of the Andy Scannell Cup are delving deep into their reserves ahead of the opening game against Valley Rovers in Cloughduv tomorrow evening at 7.30pm.
It’s a repeat of their first-round meeting last season when they Trabeg club strolled to an emphatic 14-point victory.
“We’re missing four starters from last season. Brian Murphy, Kevin Fulignati, Alan O’Donovan and Mark Cronin are all out injured.
“A lot of it is just niggles and they might be back for either the second or third games depending on their progress.
“It’s a test of our squad as a result and even there we have injuries to Eoin Nation, James O’Donovan and Conor Shalloe, who are all out, too.
“Eoin was very unfortunate in dislocating his ankle and suffering a shoulder injury in a game last week.
“He’s a resilient young man and I’ve no doubt he will come back,” O’Donovan said.
Still, there’s the nucleus of a talented and experienced group of senior players like Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly, Steven Cronin, Micheal Aodh Martin, Alan Cronin, Aidan O’Reilly and Barry O’Driscoll to rally the troops.
And the availability of their Cork quartet on a regular, un-interrupted basis has obvious benefits for player and club.
“It’s a major boost to us to have them. I’m glad in a way that Croke Park took the stand they did because it took away all the confusion between club and county.
“We have four lads involved, another club might have only one, and it’s not fair to put the players in the middle.
“I still think Cork will be fine with six weeks together before they have to play Kerry.
“The players won’t be going back to them unfit or anything like that. They’ll benefit from playing with their clubs.”
Nemo will be one of the fancied clubs again this season, odds-on favourites to claim one of the two places on offer in a group containing Bishopstown and Douglas.
“We don’t take any notice of that. We are used to it at this stage.
“I reckon we’ve sticky enough games, starting with Valleys and then we’ve local rivalries against Bishopstown and Douglas.
“We need to be on our guard in all three games and the main thing is to win your first game.
“That takes the pressure off to a certain extent because you can afford to lose one game of the three, but not the first.
“Tomorrow is going to be a lot tighter game than last year.
“I was talking to someone during the week who said Valleys played the ’Barr’s recently in a challenge and put it up to them, so you have take note of that.”
The Nemo boss is relieved to have a championship at all to play for given the worrying coronavirus position a few months ago.
“At one stage there were going to be no games and then we were given a bit of hope with non-contact.
“Now, we have games and hopefully it will stay that way because the last thing we need at this point is an outbreak in some club or other.
“That would affect the teams they’ve played as well as their own squad and would also affect their own club.
“Hopefully, that won’t happen and the championship will be allowed run off.
“We’ve a bit of work done in the five weeks that we are back together.
“We have shown steady improvement which we needed to after the first game.
“We are not exactly where we would like to be in terms of fitness and how we’re playing, but we’re getting there.
“We will hope for the best tomorrow as every club because it’s important to win your first game in this new format.
“It’s a pity that it’s the year that’s in it to trial the new system, but we’re the same as everyone else in that we just have to get on with it,” O’Donovan concluded.