NEMO RANGERS’ first Cork County SFC title in 1972 was the opening chapter in a success story that has continued right up to the present day.
One of the country’s top clubs, they have amassed 20 county titles since and seven All-Ireland club championships.
On and off the field they are one of the most progressive clubs in the GAA and their contribution to the Cork success story is equally admirable.
Nearly half a century has now passed since that historic Sunday in the old Athletic Grounds when they defeated UCC in the final but the memories of that year are still vivid for goalkeeper and team captain Billy Morgan.
He takes up the story for the Echo.
“Yes, it was a day you will always remember and cherish. Fortunately, we have been very successful since but that first Cork title was something that we had strived for and when it happened that year it was the reward for all the good work that had gone on before.
“We won the junior county in 1957 and went up senior, there was no intermediate then and in our first year up we lost to Macroom who went on to win the title.
“We managed to hold on to our senior status in the years that followed and we got to a county semi-final against the ‘Barrs in 1965.
“We were definitely getting stronger with each passing year and in 1969 we lost to UCC in the semi-final when I made a few mistakes in goal.
“We got to the final in 1970 and lost to Muskerry after being up 10 points. We lost to Carbery in ’71 but we knew we were not that far off.
“An important happening for us was that we won the minor double in 1970 and six or seven of that team graduated quickly to senior ranks, Dinny Allen, Brian Murphy, Colm Murphy and that gave us a good mix of youth and experience with the likes of Frank Cogan, Donal Barrett, my brother Noel, Bro Fabian and Eddie Brophy.
“You had Billy and Der Cogan too while Frank was also a very good coach.’’ Nemo were back in the final again in ’72 after defeating St Michael’s in a replay in the semi-final.
“Yes, we knew we had a very good side going into that final with UCC and I suppose defeating them in the final wiped the slate clean for me after making a few mistakes earlier against them.
“We played against the wind in the first-half but were in front at half-time. Dinny got a goal for us and we managed to keep them at bay until the whistle.
“It was a huge achievement for us. We were not one of the bigger clubs but there was a great bunch there, on and off the field.
“Dinny McDonnell was a selector that year and he had done great work before that as club chairman while Frank Lee and Sylvie Cotter were selectors too.
“We didn’t have our own clubhouse then so we went back to the Tory Top bar that night for the celebrations.”
Morgan, who captained Cork to All-Ireland glory a year later, believed that the foundation for the success was the fact that the players had come though the ranks in the great footballing academy of Críost Rí.
“Yes, most of that team went through Críost Rí and you had Bother Fabian there as well. It was a real local team effort with everybody on the team born within a mile of the club.
“We went into the Munster club championship after that and gave that a right go and we ended up winning it, we defeated Kenmare and Doonbeg and went on to win the All-Ireland by defeating Fr Griffith’s from Galway and St Vincent’s from Dublin in the final.
“That really put the icing on the cake and it led the way for more success on the Munster and All-Ireland front.
“We moved into Capwell in 1973 and had great success down the years there before we moved to Trabeg which is now one of the best complexes in the country and something that we are all very proud of.”
Five of that 1972 winning Nemo team played key roles for Cork the following September when Sam Maguire came back to Leeside after a 28-year absence.
“I suppose it proved how good that Nemo team was because you had Frank Cogan, Bran Murphy, Jimmy Barrett, Seamus Coughlan and myself being on the Cork ’73 team.
“So, you could say that 1972 and 1973 were very good years in the club and it really all started off from that first county title win.
“To be honest, I find it hard now to believe it’s nearly 50 years ago.”
The Nemo Rangers team that day in 1972 was: B Morgan; J Corcoran, E Brophy, B Murphy; D Cogan, F Cogan, K Collins; B Cogan, D Barrett; D Allen, S Coughlan, L Good; N Morgan, J Barrett, M O’Donoghue.