AFTER a decade of steering the U21s, at first, and then the seniors, Nemo Rangers manager, Larry Kavanagh, is preparing to step down.
How appropriate then that his last game should be the pinnacle of the club season, the All-Ireland final against Galway and Connacht champions, Corofin, at Croke Park, tomorrow, throw-in 2pm.
Kavanagh returns to headquarters, having played in four finals in the famous green and black, ending in a 50-50 split.
“We won the U21 county in 2010 and we all came up as a management group to take over the seniors.
“Stephen O'Brien was manager for three years and helped win us a county. He stepped away from the role, so I took over. Colin Corkery was a selector for the first three before my brother, Joe, came on board.
“I'm going to enjoy the day. I won't be nervous because the team will have been picked and everyone will know their roles. Once the players cross the white line, there's little we can do, anyway.
“But I expect I'll be nervous tonight, probably wide awake in bed looking up at the ceiling at all hours of the morning,” he joked.
Corofin were champions in 2015 with the bulk of the current team on display again. Kavanagh believes that experience has stood to them along the way.
“I think it will help them. It was probably the reason Corofin were able to dig themselves out of a hole because they never panicked, especially when reduced to 14 men at the start against Moorefield in the semi-final.
“Something like 2015 filters around the team and rubs off on players. They probably don't need to say anything. Fellows keep looking for the ball.
“They got the first three points of the second-half in the semi-final and that comes from experience.”
Larry's last final was in 2003, a successful outing, but again, Nemo had to overcome adversity.
“We lost Niall Geary, Martin Cronin and Stephen through injury during the game, but we still didn't panic.
“We knew if we got the ball up to Colin, he'd pop over a few points. My brothers, Joe and Derek, were also in the team and they had huge experience, too.
“While Corofin won't panic I can't see us doing it either because we've a lot of experience in our team, as well.”
Kavanagh has been devouring video clips of Corofin games not only this season, but in other campaigns, also.
“My take is that they've got to the final without having been at their best. Both the Connacht semi-final against St Brigid's from Roscommon and the final against Castlebar Mitchels went to extra-time.
“I watched the videos and they were dour games played on dire pitches. I didn't see their All-Ireland quarter-final against Fulham Irish, but Corofin were 1-2 down early on.
“And the semi-final against Moorfield wasn't any better which kind of reflected the way they've been playing all year, but they've been winning and that's the key.
“I saw the 2015 final win over Slaughtneil and they were good back then. I reckon it's the pitches which haven't helped them.”
While Slaughtneil brought something totally different to their semi-final, Nemo expect Corofin to take a more conventional approach.
“They seem to be very good kickers and haven't deployed a sweeper per se though players do drop back, when they don't have the ball.
“Their team is more or less the same as 2015 apart from a couple of young fellows. I was very impressed with Dylan Wall, who scored the winning goal in the semi-final.
“He did a brilliant marking job on Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly in their win over St Vincent's, three years ago. Connolly was the best player in the country at the time and on top of his game.
“Wall is also their penalty taker from corner-back, but he strikes me as a player who's capable of playing anywhere.
“I was also impressed by midfielder Ronan Steede while there's talk Galway hurler, Daithí Burke, will come into the team at midfield, leaving Michael Farragher to move elsewhere.
“Their forwards look well-balanced and they all contribute on the scoreboard, so they'll need watching. Galway always produce good footballers.”
The grim weather of later affected Nemo's preparations, but not unduly, and the forecast for tomorrow isn't encouraging either. Wrap up well is the advice.
“The snow caught us for a week. It came in on the Wednesday after the semi-final and we were going to go back training on the Thursday, but the weather put an end to that, as it did to any chance of organising a game at the weekend.
“We trained on the Sunday morning, again on Tuesday and Thursday and had an internal match on Saturday.
“The forecast is for strong winds and showers. The pitch won't be affected because during the snow, Croke Park were able to turn on the under-soil heating and it had no snow covering at all. The pitch will be perfect.
“Temperatures are expected to be close to freezing, but the surface will be fine. The wind could be an issue, especially if it gusts and swirls around the ground. It might make it difficult for the free-takers.”
Nemo departed at lunch time today with Paddy Gumley the only injury concern and he will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness with Conor Horgan on stand-by.