All-Ireland victory was sweet for Nemo Rangers in 2003

Having lost the previous two finals, Nemo responded in positive fashion
All-Ireland victory was sweet for Nemo Rangers in 2003

Colin Corkery scores the winning point for Nemo Rangers against Crossmolina Deel Rovers in the 2003 All-Ireland Club SFC final at Croke Park ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Cork’s tally of nine All-Ireland club hurling titles means they sit in third place in the roll of honour, behind Kilkenny and Galway, who are on 13 each.

It’s more or less in line with the county’s place in the inter-county list, second behind Kilkenny and ahead of Tipperary, but in football things are different.

Cork’s seven Sam Maguires have them joint-fourth with Meath, two behind Galway though well off Kerry and Dublin. In the All-Ireland club football though, Cork are tops with 11. Three of those were won by St Finbarr’s and one by O’Donovan Rossa, while the other seven are accounted for by the competition’s most successful team.

Nemo Rangers converted their first ten county SFC titles – from 1972-1993 – into nine Munster championships and six All-Irelands, a truly phenomenal track record. However, after going seven years without the Andy Scannell Cup, when Nemo regained the county in 2000, and retained it a year later, they ended up losing the All-Ireland final each time, to Crossmolina Deel Rovers and Ballinderry respectively.

After another county title in 2002, they breezed to a Munster 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.

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.

Fear of losing a third consecutive final must have played on Nemo minds on St Patrick’s Day in Croke Park, but any thoughts were not allowed to gain residency, even when Crossmolina led by two points at half-time, inspired by the impressive Kieran McDonald, who kicked five points to turn around Nemo’s early dominance.

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, 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.

Alan Cronin’s brace of points at the start of the second half helped Nemo to regain some momentum and 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.

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.”

Scorers for Nemo Rangers: C Corkey 0-6 (0-1free f, 0-1 45), A Cronin 0-4, K Kavanagh 0-3, K Cahill 0-1.

Scorers for Crossmolina: C McDonald 0-5 (0-1 free), K Moffat 1-0, J Leonard 0-2, J Keane, G Walsh 0-1.

NEMO RANGERS: 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.

Subs: 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).

CROSSMOLINA: 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.

Subs: J Leonard for Lavelle (4, injured), P McAndrew for O’Malley (54).

Referee: B Crowe (Cavan).

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