Nemo are hoping to dish out medicine to Dr Crokes

Nemo are hoping to dish out medicine to Dr Crokes
Nemo Rangers’ Paul Kerrigan is pictured alongside Dr Crokes’ Johnny Buckley. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

THE last time Nemo Rangers and Dr Croke's met in a Munster club final it took two-and-a-half months to play the game.

Mother nature intervened between the scheduled November date in 2010 and the actual day of the match in 2011.

The big freeze brought the country to a near standstill before the tie eventually started at 4pm on January 30 in Mallow.

Current Nemo captain, Aidan O'Reilly, remembers it well because it was his first season with the seniors and didn't make the starting 15 initially.

“It was only when Martin Cronin got injured before the county semi-final against Clonakilty that I made the team and I played in the final win over St Finbarr's.

“The Croke's game was called off a number of times. The venue was also changed.

The weather was very bad at the time. There was a lot of snow and ice and the ground was hard as a rock.

“We spent most of our time training indoors in Nemo because the weather was so bad.

“There was a lot of uncertainty and then we had the holidays as well over Christmas, but we always had one eye on the game.

“I remember there was a game on before ours and that helped soften up the pitch a bit,” he said.

Nemo won a remarkable game by 1-15 to 1-13, having been 13 points clear at half-time.

They only scored twice in the second-half, but those points from a Barry O'Driscoll free and Alan Cronin proved the difference.

“It was bizarre. We were phenomenal in the first-half, but collapsed completely n the second-half, when we played like a junior team. You could say it was a bit like the county final this year.

“There was a bit of a breeze alright from the start, but there's no way you could describe it as a 10-point wind.

“I think we just lost control around the middle eight and Croke's were winning breaks all over the place.

“And with the quality of forwards in their ranks, they were always going to profit from having so much ball,” O'Reilly added.

Kieran O'Leary grabbed a goal for Croke's 30 seconds from the end of injury-time to create further tension, but Nemo held on.

“Looking back on it now I only played two games to win a county and two more to win a Munster medal and I was thinking wouldn't it be great if it was like this every year.

“Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out like and we went into a bit of a lull after that.” 

Nemo's All-Ireland bid ended in a shock semi-final defeat by St Brigid's at the Gaelic Grounds, when they ended up with only 13 players on the pitch, O'Reilly one of two players red carded.

“We were down to 14 men early in the second-half and I was sent off, when there were just 30 seconds left. This fella was going past me and I just stuck out my arm.

“Unfortunately, he ducked down and it looked a lot worse than it actually was because there was certainly no intent on my part.

“It was very disappointing for the likes of Derek Kavanagh and Martin because they had winning an All-Ireland club on their minds, but it wasn't to be.” 

Now, O'Reilly returns to a familiar Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday for a second crack off the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions, who are strong favourites to retain their provincial crown.

Much has changed since that fateful January afternoon almost seven years now and that's the primary reason why the Killarney club are rated so highly.

“Apart from two years ago against Clonmel, Nemo haven't been involved in Munster unlike Croke's, who've won four Munsters since we last won it. They are justified favourites,” he commented.

Yet, nobody ever writes off Nemo. There is a reason why they've won 15 Munsters and seven All-Irelands. Now Nemo have a cause, as well.

“We're confident in our own ability to get the job done because of our squad. There's unbelievable competition for places as has been evident in our internal games and there's fierce pressure on the starting 15.

“I think it's all about who can get on top in the middle of the pitch. Both inside lines in attack are very dangerous and I reckon there will only be a couple of points in it at the end.

“Both teams play open and expansive games at a high tempo and there's very little between us. I think it's going to be close."

Hopefully, the weather won't be a factor on this occasion and the usually high-quality Páirc Uí Rinn surface will be conducive to allow two talented groups of footballers strut their stuff in what should be a first-class encounter.

it's even the type of game to attract neutrals, the sort who'd usually give football a wide berth and you only have to look at the respective forward lines on view to understand the interest.

Luke Connolly has been sensational for Nemo all season, a shoo-in for Player of the Year, while Paul Kerrigan, O'Driscoll and Paddy Gumley had made generous contributions to the overall tally of 18 goals and 127 points from the eight outings.

Croke's scoring returns are just as impressive, 16 goals and 111 points from a game less with Colm Cooper, O'Leary, Daithí Casey, Gavin O'Shea, among others, responsible.

 

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