IF you want to know why Nemo Rangers keep winning, you only need to spend a few minutes in the company of one of their iconic players.
Joe Kavanagh was the fulcrum of the attack for a succession of Nemo victories on Leeside, in Munster and in the All-Ireland arena. These days he's on the sideline as a selector alongside his brother and Rangers' bainisteoir Larry and he was hugely proud of their efforts against Dr Croke's, rubbishing their status as underdogs.
"It ranks up there with any of them because your last win is always your most important," he explained before heading off to enjoy last night's celebrations. "This team has a great future, the age profile is good. We're used to this scenario over the years, calming it down again for a few weeks and having a right go in the All-Ireland semi-final."
The Trabeg outfit are often emboldened by their status as the bluebloods of Cork football and showed exactly why with a supreme display at Páirc Uí Rinn to deservedly grab last season's All-Ireland champs Dr Croke's provincial crown. They played with real swagger against the Kerry superpower, particularly through leading lights Paul Kerrigan and MVP Luke Connelly, but worked like animals at the same time in every sector.
The likes of midfielder Alan O'Donovan, wing-back and former Cork minor captain Kevin Fulignati and Cavan native Paddy Gumley might not be known to the wider Cork public, but they were outstanding here. Indeed it was a complete team performance, with Nemo only introducing a couple of late subs because they were functioning so efficiently from one to 15. Conor Horgan came in to clip a vital point, but Rangers were electric, apart from a host of missed goal chances.
"We came down knowing we were in with a right chance because of the players we had.
"Fair enough the two Barrs game we were reeled in, but we also knew we were better than that. We have the forwards but our defenders probably hadn't been getting too much credit but they were really shut down Croke's big names.
"I think overall, alright they got a run on us for a few minutes in the second half, but we were the better side.
"They brought it down to a few scores with the breeze with them but we'd talked about getting on the ball, making the right decisions and not panicking and that's how we managed it. We were patient. We were able to spread it wide and go at pace too when they funneled players back so it was very satisfying."
Having savoured an All-Ireland triumph on Jones Road back in 2003, Kavanagh would love to see this new wave get their chance at Croker. Derry's Slaughtneil await in the last four.
"There are only two games left. There's only a few were involved in the last All-Ireland in 2011. We're one hour away from Paddy's Day, which is synonymous with Nemo. It's 2003 since we've won it. We lost in 2008 as well. We've seven titles and people will say we're the kingpins but we'd love nothing better than to put in a hard shift again and give ourselves a chance at getting back to Croke Park."
That's in the new year, yesterday, Kavanagh admitted getting to take on the Kerry outfit on home soil was an advantage.
"The fact we could come in at 12 o'clock in our place, have a chat, get the bus down, and it was great for our supporters. We were willing to go to Killarney, we had a game against Gaeltacht there earlier in the year, but we didn't really want to play the game in Mallow – not that it isn't a fine venue – but we preferred to toss for it. The pitch was heavy outside but it didn't really matter."
Connolly was the star turn with 10 points, four from play, but in Kavanagh's view, the Nemo defenders also deserved massive credit. Daithí Casey kicked a couple of points from play but Colm Cooper and Kieran O'Leary, who ended up with two yellow cards in frustration, didn't.
"We paired guys off. We thought Casey might come out more or that Gooch might float out around centre-forward for longer spells and Stephen Cronin might pick him up then. That wasn't exactly the way it worked out but the effort from all the lads meant we owned possession at times. Their big names weren't getting the ball."
The former Rebel All-Star is hopeful Nemo's exploits can provide the county team with a badly-needed boost.
"We were representing the county and it's good to feel you've a bit of backing for that. We always treated it that way. We might be a closely-knit club but it's nice to think the people of Cork were behind us in this one."