HAVING yesterday looked at the last Cork success in the All-Ireland Club SHC, today we turn our focus to its football equivalent, though sadly once more it is with a nostalgic rather than current tone.
While Newtownshandrum’s 2004 victory was Cork’s last national title at senior club level, one has to go back a year further for the last football victory, when Nemo Rangers overcame Mayo’s Crossmolina Deel Rovers, having lost the last two deciders – one of those to Crossmolina a year previously.
With seven titles, Nemo remain top of the All-Ireland club roll of honour, though Armagh’s Crossmaglen Rangers are now just one behind, having won three since Nemo’s last victory.
Nemo have 19 county senior titles and 15 Munster championships, meaning that seven All-Irelands stands up as a very impressive conversion rate, though it might come as a surprise to know that, prior to 2000, only once had they been beaten outside of Cork. For trivia purposes, St Mary’s Burren of Down hold the distinction of being the first ‘foreign’ club to beat Nemo, seeing them off in an All-Ireland club semi-final in 1988 before going on to win their second title in three year.
In a club with a heritage like Nemo’s, ‘just’ winning county championships – or even Munsters, though Cork are without a provincial title since Nemo in 2010 – is never enough. That’s why the All-Ireland final losses to Crossmolina and Ballinderry in 2001 and ’02 respectively would have hurt so much.
While they breezed to a three in a row in 2002 – the first time they had won one, perhaps surprisingly – in a way it was only the start of the hard work for Billy Morgan’s side. While Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane were sticky opponents in the first game in Munster, Nemo prevailed by four points and then a 0-16 to 1-7 win was achieved against Kerry’s Kerins O’Rahillys.
That meant a final tie with Monaleen, representing Limerick, but the Shannonsiders had no hope against a Nemo side with its eyes firmly on the prize. They won by 4-14 to 0-6 and would play into the spring for the third successive year. It also marked the first time that anybody had done the Munster club football three in a row.
Tyrone kingpins Errigal Ciarán – under the management of Mickey Harte for the final time, having taken over the county team – were then seen off in the All-Ireland semi-final in the spring. That set up a second final meeting with Crossmolina in three years, as the Mayo club had beaten Meath’s Dunshaughlin in their last-four tie.
Fear of losing a third consecutive final must have played on Nemo minds, but any thoughts were not allowed to gain residency, even when Crossmolina led by two points at half-time, inspired by the impressive Ciaran McDonald, who kicked five points to turn around Nemo’s early dominance.
In addition, the Mayo star was the creative force behind Cross’s goal, providing a lovely pass for Liam Moffat in the 20th minute. That opened up a 1-4 to 0-4 lead and though Nemo scored the next two points and Cross goalkeeper Barry Heffernan had to save well to deny Alan Cronin a goal, they suffered from the loss of Niall Geary and Martin Cronin to injury and McDonald’s point made it 1-6 to 0-7 at the break.
While Alan Cronin’s brace of points at the start of the second half looked to have put the momentum firmly in Nemo’s favour, those points were cancelled out by Joe Keane and Johnny Leonard.
With 16 minutes left, the sides were level at 0-10 to 1-7 and with seven minutes left it was 0-12 to 1-9, even though Moffett did go close to a second goal, punching McDonald’s delivery wide.
The game looked there for Nemo, but four uncharacteristic wides were preventing them from taking the initiative, but finally the breakthrough came as Colin Corkery sent over a massive point on the stroke of full-time – his sixth overall – and when Joe Kavanagh scored seconds later, there would be no denying the Capwell side, winners by 0-14 to 1-9. Morgan was, naturally, delighted at the resilience shown in winning at the third time of asking.
“Two years ago, it was similar,” he said, “we had our chances and we didn’t take them.
“After we managed to get back level near the end, I thought, ‘It’s not going to be our day again’, but there is no better man than Colin to have the ball in his hands at that moment for that score.
“He wasn’t having a particularly good day, but that is the thing about Colin. He doesn’t shirk from responsibility. He is able to pick out scores like that at any time.”
Steven O’Brien, who had been reinvented as a centre-forward early in the new millennium after stellar service as a centre-back of the highest calibre, had watched the closing stages from the bench. He had been involved in many great days, but wasn’t shy about ranking this win above them all.
“This probably ranks as the highest,” he said.
“What made this so special is to come back after a couple of disappointments. When you work with a group of players, that creates a real bond within the team. Losing an All-Ireland final is a terrible feeling and you want to come back here and win it with the same group of players and we have managed that.”
C Corkey 0-6 (0-1f, 0-1 45), A Cronin 0-4, K Kavanagh 0-3, K Cahill 0-1.
C McDonald 0-5 (0-1f), K Moffat 1-0, J Leonard 0-2, J Keane, G Walsh 0-1.
D Heaphy; L Kavanagh, N Geary, Seán O’Brien; G Murphy, M Cronin, M Daly; K Cahill, D Kavanagh; A Cronin, Steven O’Brien, M McCarthy; J Kavanagh, C Corkery, W Morgan.
P Brophy for Geary (15, injured), B O’Regan for M Cronin (26, injured), D Mehigan for Kavanagh, JP O’Neill for Steven O’Brien (55).
B Heffernan; S Rochford, T Nallen, C Reilly; P Gardiner, D Mulligan, G O’Malley; G Walsh, J Nallen; M Moyles, C McDonald, E Lavelle; L Moffat, J Keane, P McGuinness.
J Leonard for Lavelle (4, injured), P McAndrew for O’Malley (54).
B Crowe (Cavan).