Nemo’s class in attack pays it forward through the generations

Nemo’s class in attack pays it forward through the generations

Nemo legend Colin Corkery breaks with the ball against Mallow in an SFC game at Carraig na bhFear. Picture: Maurice O'Mahony

A FEW weeks ago, The Examiner had a feature on the lineage of great Kerry forwards, from Mikey Sheehy through Maurice Fitzgerald and Colm Cooper and now onto the boy wonder David Clifford.

It was a reminder of what Cork football has had to cope with this past 45 years or so, but it also showed how each player had influenced the next, how Maurice Fitzgerald had been taken by Mikey Sheehy in a local championship game when he was coming through, how Cooper had watched videos of Sheehy and seen Fitzgerald’s skills close up.

There’s a tradition in Kerry of playing the game in a certain way, as a marquee forward, and it’s almost impossible to look at David Clifford, now, and not spot some brilliant/awful mix of Fitzgerald and Cooper, in kicking style and composure and ability to score points from distance and spot goal chances. That started a conversation on chains of talent in various positions (Cork hurling goalkeepers, for example) and there’s a football club out this weekend who’ve reproduced talented forwards through the generations.

Dinny Allen playing for Cork against Dublin in 1983. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Dinny Allen playing for Cork against Dublin in 1983. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

How does Allen-Corkery-Masters-Kerrigan-Connolly sound? It might not be as natural a flow of talent as with Kerry’s line of forwards — there are overlaps of eras and other forwards with claims for greatness. You could easily slip Ephie Fitzgerald in between Allen and Corkery, and Joe Kavanagh or Alan Cronin were main men during large parts of these times.

Yet it does have that level of obvious influence from one player to the next, in both how these forwards play and how they took on the responsibility of chief magic maker/scorer on teams that expected to win. Perhaps the next step is Mark Cronin.

There are different parts to this kind of transfer of talent. Access to older players around the club to guide a pathway is key, so that someone like James Masters, a young free-taker with Nemo, can’t but be improved by having someone like Colin Corkery around the place.

Masters has spoken of having that as a reference, both as regards a style of kicking to imitate and a performance level that sets standards for what’s expected at Nemo. Luke Connolly has previously mentioned watching Corkery taking frees, but last week he spoke of trying to take something from Alan Cronin and James Masters in their decision-making and composure in front of goal. He mentioned how he’d never seen Masters snatch at a shot and how Masters always seemed to have more time.

It’s hardly a fluke that one club has brought through this type of scoring forward over and over, producing four or five of them through the decades, since the 1970s, while most other clubs have managed one or two, tops, in the same period.

Scorers are expected to score when needed and in the 28 championship years since 1992, only Joe Kavanagh and Alan Cronin (three times in total) have top-scored for Nemo outside the Corkery-Masters-Kerrigan-Connolly line of forwards.

There’s an unmistakable maverick element to each player, though.

Anyone who saw Dinny Allen play can talk of that spark of genius; that ability to come up with something unexpected and brilliant. Corkery was a metronomic free-taker, but he was unique in how he played the game.

Nemo Rangers captain Colin Corkery raises the All-Ireland. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers captain Colin Corkery raises the All-Ireland. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Masters was similarly willing to mix the reliability of kicking point after point with the freedom to try something off the cuff on the ball.

Kerrigan was different again, not as natural a scorer, but with the pace and timing to come up with big plays. Connolly is more a likely-to-do-anything sort of attacker, with that element of creativity and individuality. The common theme has been the ability to produce match-winning scores in county semi-finals and finals, Munster finals, and All-Ireland campaigns.

If you think how few players here in Cork actually get to be the difference in, say, a senior football county final, most players never do, some maybe once or twice (if you’re from Castlehaven).

There’s the experience factor, too, though. Gary Neville made an interesting point, during the week, in relation to the young players at Man Utd and how, while they have the energy and speed, they don’t have the know-how to win games away from home in the Premier League, and there’s a deficit of more experienced players who could guide them through.

Nemo tend to manage those transitions well, ensuring that there are usually enough people in the dressing-room who’ve seen the application and culture of a previous era, and picked up their habits. It’s often mentioned as a factor in Cork football’s fall after 2012, the loss of so much big-game experience at once; the loss of players who knew when to quicken or slow the tempo of a game, when to manage a game, and when to go for it all out.

There’s not much that can happen in a game that somebody in the Nemo group hasn’t come across, and come through, at some stage. This stock of forwards has won and lost games in Munster and beyond. Not all have won All-Ireland titles, something that Allen and Corkery managed to inspire more than once and something that’s a recognised currency in Nemo.

Some traditions need upgrading, but the cult of that graceful Nemo forward goes on.

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