Kerrigan and Nemo well aware of Clonmel Commercials’ threat
Memories of the 2015 Munster club final defeat remain a motivating factor in Cork
Paul Kerrigan: the Nemo Rangers stalwart is looking forward to the Munster club football final against Clonmel Commercials at Dungarvan on Sunday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Does Paul Kerrigan remember? Could he ever forget.
“I can remember because I was the fecking captain,” grimaced Kerrigan, who outlined in full technicolour the dramatic late Clonmel Commercials’ goal that cost Nemo Rangers in the 2015 AIB Munster club final.
“They took a short kick-out, myself or one of the lads fouled a Clonmel lad, inside their ‘45’. They took another short kick-pass to midfield, another one of our lads fouled. Then your man got up and launched it. Michael Quinlivan caught it or broke it and just swivelled, bang, and it just dribbled into the far corner.
“I suppose our biggest lesson was, last minute of a Munster final and we were two points up, we just didn’t have enough bodies back behind the ball. The sickening part is you didn’t have a chance to go for the equaliser. It was literally the last kick of the game.”
Kerrigan’s recall isn’t quite correct. He impeded the first free from being taken, earning him a yellow card and resulting in the ball being brought forward. The rest, unfortunately for Nemo, is just as he described, Quinlivan scoring the winning goal with 33 seconds of stoppage time remaining.
Four years on, the opportunity for redemption finally presents itself with Nemo and Clonmel facing off again in a provincial decider, this time in Dungarvan on Sunday.
“It was galling for two years until we won the next one,” acknowledged the veteran Cork forward. “I eventually came around to it. Whether they beat us by one or 10 points, it’s still in the history books that they won Munster. But fairly galling at the time, yeah.”
Kerrigan and Nemo approach their latest Munster final – the club is bidding for an incredible 17th provincial win – with a slight question mark over their true ability. They took out Austin Stacks, the Kerry representatives, with remarkable ease in the semi-finals, winning by 18 points, yet Stacks were only involved as a divisional team, east Kerry, won the county championship. As a result, it is a legitimate query to wonder if their heart was really in it.
“From their point of view, I suppose it was a free hit but we just blew them out of the water,” said Kerrigan. “We wanted to have a better performance than the Newcastlewest game in the previous round and they were on the end of it.”
Even allowing for that 2015 defeat, Nemo’s strong club form and presence at the business end of county and provincial campaigns has been a reassuring constant throughout Kerrigan’s career.
It started off like that for him with Cork too, in the late 2000s, winning an All-Ireland in 2010 and a series of national league medals though the second portion of his inter-county career has been frustrating.
There was a time, pre-2011, when he actually raised an eyebrow at Dublin talking about winning All-Irelands and meeting the targets laid down in their Blue Wave action plan.
“I can remember when we were pretty good around 2008, 2009, up to 2012 and 2013 and that’s when that Blue Wave was starting for Dublin and you’re there thinking, ‘What are they on about?’ But who is laughing now?” said Kerrigan.
These days, it is viewed as progress for Cork, a Division Three team, that they gave Dublin a run for their money for an hour or so in this year’s Super 8s, before eventually losing by 13 points.
“When I came in with Cork first, we were always in semi-finals and finals won it in 2010, won national league finals, were really successful and then it just flipped, completely negative, rock bottom and going nowhere and that was right up to this year,” he said.
“Then the U-20s came out of nowhere to win and the minors won their championship and we got to the Super 8s. I think fellas should realise in Cork that that’s the baseline, the quarter-finals and the Super 8s, but there’s a new board and structures there, the club championships have changed a bit as well to make them more competitive so it’s all starting to get a bit more progressive rather than reactive which we always were.”