Nemo Rangers will look to add to their already impressive trophy cabinet this weekend when they go in search of a 17th Munster club football championship.
The Cork city heavyweights have been the regular standard bearer for club sides throughout Ireland since first making the breakthrough in 1972 – 50 years after the club was founded.
With that maiden county championship came a first-ever Munster club title, which was quickly followed up with an All-Ireland club title.
To date, the Cork outfit have won seven All-Irelands, 16 Munsters and 21 Cork county titles en route to becoming the most successful club in Ireland.
When reflecting on their rich history, it’s an easy assertion to make that county championships just don’t cut the mustard in Nemo. However, according to county stalwart Paul Kerrigan, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He does admit, though, that players feed off the club’s tradition of winning with most of them wanting to create their own bit of history.
“Ah, we celebrated alright!” says Kerrigan.
“But we’ve a rich history of really, really, really, really good players putting it back into the club. I could name an awful lot. Billy Morgan is a selector with us. I played with two lads who are selectors, Willie Morgan and Gary Murphy. They won All-Ireland clubs themselves.
“Even our previous management team who got to the All-Ireland club, there’s a few of them back involved with the underage as well. I think that culture of no one gets ahead of themselves, I think no one has the attitude of ‘what does the club owe me?’ It’s what more can I do?
“I think that history of doing well with the club, I think we’ve 16 Munster clubs, 21 counties. So nearly three-quarters of the time, we’ve won the Munster club. So you feel like if you win a county, you’re in with a really good shout of winning that.
“This new team, they’re looking at the success and they’re wanting to get as many county medals as they can, winning Munsters and get an All-Ireland if they can, and live up to the previous teams. We’re very lucky and very conscious of not fading off, and fading away.
“Last year we had a year off, which was terrible. But we answered that and won a county in fairly convincing fashion.”
With All-Ireland club champions both on the sidelines and in the stands, it ensures that the issue of egos rarely creeps into the Nemo Rangers camp.
Kerrigan admits it is easy not to have an ego playing for a club such as his because each player coming through has somebody to aspire to in the future.
“100 per cent,” says Kerrigan
“When I was growing up, you’d be talking about James Masters, Derek Kavanagh. James Masters and Derek Kavanagh are talking about Joe Kavanagh, Colin Corkery.
“Colin Corkery is talking about Dinny Allen, is talking about Billy Morgan, who’s talking about Brian Murphy. So it’s there. It goes the whole way through. You just want that to continue. If there’s an ego in the club, you’d probably stick out like a sore thumb.
“There’s probably an unwritten rule if you’re a county player, you have to come back to watch training, be at the league games, be at the challenge games.
“When that happens, you’ll fit seamlessly into the style of play come championship. You’re not a bonus player coming back who’s expected to carry a burden. If you’re a county player, that’s great. All the pressure isn’t on you.”
Kerrigan and his teammates strolled to a county title in 2019. However, they stumbled across the line against Newcastle West in the first round of Munster. They then blew away an Austin Stacks side who, in truth, weren’t at the required level due to the unusual circumstances that led to them being there.
It’s all to play for this weekend as they come up against an old foe in Clonmel Commercials, who shocked the whole country four years ago when a last gasp goal from Michael Quinlivan snatched a dramatic one-point win to hand the Tipperary champions a first-ever provincial crown.
Kerrigan, who captained Nemo in that 2015 Munster final, admits it was a heartbreaking defeat that took him nearly two years to get over.
“I was captain on the day. It was very devastating,” says Kerrigan.
“You’re half-thinking, ‘I’m going to be lifting the cup here’. Literally last kick of the game, you didn’t even have a chance to draw. It was blown up.
“High ball in, good swivel, shot into the bottom corner, far post. It took me a while to get over it. It probably took me two years to get over that.
“But then you’re thinking, if they beat us by a point or ten points, it still goes down in the record books that they won. So you just have to park it. Beating Crokes two years ago helped this group get over that, and now we can try and move on and hopefully win another Munster.”
However, Sunday’s final isn’t the first meeting of the pair in 2019 as the two locked horns only a few short months ago in a challenge game.
Kerrigan feels that both teams were at different ends of the spectrum during that August Bank Holiday meeting due to Nemo’s impending county championship which was set to get underway two weeks later.
All the while, Commercials were still awaiting for Tipperary hurlers’ involvement in the All-Ireland series to end before commencing on their journey.
“We played Clonmel in a challenge game the day after the Roscommon game (Cork v Roscommon in the Super 8s), so it’s kind of funny that we’re here in December.
“I think their championship hadn’t really kicked off either. Their hurlers went to the All-Ireland, so they were probably waiting for that, so they were only getting themselves together.
“Whereas we were playing in two weeks’ time, so that was our last game before championship so we were probably a bit more up for it than them. Here we are, August into December for the game.”
Here we are is right. Can Nemo Rangers make it 17 Munster titles, or will Clonmel Commercials claim another huge scalp over the legendary club side?
Throw-in is at 2 pm on Sunday in Dungarvan.