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Luke Connolly celebrates after winning the Munster title. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Luke Connolly celebrates after winning the Munster title. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
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Nemo's victory lifted our spirits but can it inspire the Cork footballers next season?

WHETHER it will give a direct lift to the Rebels or not next season is a moot point, but Cork football got a badly-needed boost from Nemo’s victory last weekend.

Dr Croke’s strutted into Páirc Uí Rinn as All-Ireland club champions full sure they were going to retain their provincial title.

Though they were the hottest of favourites they actually owed Nemo from the 2010 Munster decider. Many felt they held all the aces.

Instead Kerry’s finest were given a lesson. Beaten by five points, it should have been at least double that, given Nemo turned eight goal chances, four of them clear-cut, into just 0-4.

Larry Kavanagh’s charges completely outworked Croke’s but also outplayed them.

It was a showcase for Luke Connolly’s array of talents and Paul Kerrigan’s trademark dynamism but also the tenacity of Colin ‘Tucker’ O’Brien and hard-running of Alan O’Donovan.

Paul Kerrigan shone against Adare and Croke's. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Paul Kerrigan shone against Adare and Croke's. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Nemo were so good from one to 15 that even when they needed an injection of fresh legs at the end of a gruelling hour their selectors struggled to identify who to withdraw. Brilliant full-forward Paddy Gumley, who scored three from play and had two assists, eventually made way for Conor Horgan, who split the posts himself. Injury saw Adrian Greaney come on for Kerrigan.

Had Rangers actually finished with the same 15 they started with, it would have been justified. That’s how exceptional the performance was.

It was one of the great wins in Nemo’s storied history. Yet it was a damn sweet for all of the Cork football faithful.

What’s the likelihood of another Cork team doing the same in 2018? Hmmm.

Not alone have Cork’s flagship team at inter-county faltered lately, the minors are without a Munster title since 2010 and the U21s were annihilated by Kerry back in the spring. Cork school teams have been overshadowed in the Corn Uí Mhuirí and Kerry clubs, at junior and intermediate especially, have been monopolising Munster silverware.

Nemo landed their 16th Munster when the county’s need was greatest. Now it won’t inspire Cork at a base level because it simply doesn’t work like that. Consider that Derry football has been pretty listless in recent years yet Slaughtneil — Nemo’s All-Ireland semi-final opponents — are among the best clubs in the country.

Nemo’s victory over Croke’s will actually hinder new Cork boss Ronan McCarthy in the early rounds of the league. It’ll rob him of Kerrigan, Connolly, Barry O’Driscoll and Stephen Cronin for the opener against Tipp on January 27 and possibly into March if Nemo overcome Slaughtneil and make it to St Patrick’s Day in Croker.

It’ll also deny the incoming management the opportunity to audition some new faces from Nemo. Kevin Fulignati, Alan O’Donovan and Jack Horgan are young enough to be worth a look in Rebel red.

Indeed Fulignati’s excellence last weekend — he was everywhere, relentless in his tackling and driven in his raids up-field from wing-back— prompted an interesting debate on Twitter. I classed the number seven as a ‘lesser-known’ Nemo man in a tweet, which the likes of former Cork dual ace Jamie Wall and selector Aidan ‘Doc’ Kelleher, argued was inaccurate.

Colin O’Brien, left, and Kevin Fulignati with the Andy Scannell Cup. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Colin O’Brien, left, and Kevin Fulignati with the Andy Scannell Cup. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Fulignati was captain as a Cork minor and started at midfield when the U21s were Munster champions in 2014. Plus he has that very distinctive surname through his Italian roots. For any other club his underage efforts with Cork would make him a standout, in Nemo that’s par for the course.

Point-scoring sub Conor Horgan played minor and U21 for the county but that doesn’t guarantee him a slot in the Nemo 15. Kevin O’Donovan is another former Rebel minor who was immense against Croke’s but, along with Jack Donovan, only came into the line-up because Cian McWhiney and Tomás Ó Sé were unavailable. Operating down the right flank of the defence, the duo seamlessly fitted in.

Strength in depth has always been the Nemo way.

On a side note, Rory Gibbons made the point via Twitter that Gumley, the 35-year-old Cavan native who was so sharp lately, started out with the club’s junior Cs when he joined. Despite a fine pedigree in Ulster, he’d to earn his way up to senior. That’s also the Nemo way.

Paddy Gumley is fouled for an early free against Croke's. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Paddy Gumley is fouled for an early free against Croke's. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile