If we were to have one criticism of ‘A Century of Glory: The Nemo Rangers Story, 1922-2022’, it would be that it was released ever so slightly early.
Had the printing presses been held off for another few weeks, they could have had a picture of Luke Connolly lifting the Andy Scannell Cup after the club’s 23rd county senior title a week and a half ago. But then again, this year represents the first of Nemo’s second century.
In any case, the timing means that Micheál Aodh Martin lifting the Premier SFC trophy for 2020 in August 2021 is the most recent successful image and his father delivers an opening message in his capacity as club member and Taoiseach.
Contrasting the club’s first pitch on Tramore Road – “a field leased from the City Council with a downward gradient” – with the outstanding facility they have now at Trabeg, Micheál Martin paints a picture of constant progress.
While noting that Nemo have had their fair share of great storytellers, not least the late Jim Cremin, he also makes the point that “a club historian has to be more than just a storyteller. He/she must be precise, a data collector, patient and hard working.” David O’Kelly, the author of the book and chairman of the Nemo centenary committee, emphatically ticks those boxes and what has resulted is a top-quality publication. While it will find a home on many a bookshelf or coffee table in Nemo households, it also holds enough interest for those not directly connected to the club.
While Nemo Rangers came into being in 1922, that was the merger of two different clubs, Rangers and Nemo. The first mention of Rangers was in 1893 and so the book covers that club’s existence as well as that of Nemo, who originated in North Monastery Secondary School in 1910 – hurling was banned in the school but a staff member, Séamus Ó hAodha, led the underground plans to form a club. Nemo was the Latin for ‘nobody’ and stood for the ‘nobodies’ forming the club in renegade fashion while also including the letters ‘N’ and ‘M’, which appeared on students’ caps and blazers.
With the War of Independence and Civil War impinging on GAA activity, the two clubs’ membership levels had fallen by the time action resumed in 1922 and so a merger, as reported in the Evening Echo of March 15 that year, was logical. From there, the story is told on a year-by-year basis, interspersed with profiles of key club members. For instance, Billy Morgan’s reads: “He has been our club’s sporting leader, our coach supreme, embodying all that the club has become famous for over several generations.
“The annals will tell of his achievements and ultimate standing among the greats of our national games. He has given us a pride and a unique spirit in Nemo Rangers and future generations will look up Billy Morgan as a supreme role model of commitment and pride in his beloved club.”
A trove of imagery also serves to depict the Nemo story in pictorial form – noting the importance of venues like O’Sullivan’s shop on Evergreen Road, which was a popular meeting place for matches, or the Tory Top bar, where the club celebrated that historic first county title in 1972.
The multitude of team and celebration pictures, like Denis Allen with the city minor hurling championship trophy in 1970, provide the black and green bloodline. The same faces are seen on underage teams, then in adult sides and later as selectors, managers and club officers. As Denis Walsh put it in The Irish Times recently: “In Nemo, nobody retires early, and nobody disappears. Old players keep adding something, like minerals in the soil.”
The integral work of the club’s ladies’ committee, and the formation of camogie and ladies’ football clubs, also receive due coverage and it is fitting that the club president in the centenary year is Bernadette Allen, who has given so much to Nemo.
As with any strongly-functioning outfit, it is a collective effort and this book recognises them all. The fruits of their labours are summed up by the fact that roll of honour at the back takes up three whole pages. It’s a collection of silverware that is only likely to grow over the next hundred years.