Perspective keeps Nemo players grounded
By John Harrington
Nemo Rangers forward Barry O’Driscoll is well aware of ‘an expectation’ around the club that their team will beat Slaughtneil in Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final and go on to win an eight All-Ireland title.
In a club as traditionally successful as Nemo Rangers, that sort of attitude is hard-wired into their DNA.
As team manager Larry Kavanagh remarked before their Munster SFC Final win over reigning All-Ireland champions Dr. Crokes, “Nemo are a cocky shower, we always think we are going to win”.
The players themselves want to win this match more than anyone else and believe they can, but in this season of all seasons they can also view the challenge with a healthy dose of perspective.
Their team-mate Cian McWhinney suffered a spinal injury in the county final replay against St. Finbarr, so you don’t need to tell Barry O’Driscoll there are things in life more important than sport.
“It actually happened right by me,” said O’Driscoll. “I went over and looked down at him and he was kind of lying awkwardly and I just kind of went, 'Are you alright?'.
“He just said straight out, 'I can't feel my legs'. It kind of washed over me and I just didn't think much of it. I just thought it was one of those things and I didn't think of the seriousness of it and I asked him was he sure.
“He said yeah and then I started motioning to people to come on and he didn't move. And then the way he was lying made a lot more sense because he couldn't actually move himself.
“He told me a few weeks later when we were talking about it, he thought his arm was up in the air and his arm was actually under him. He just couldn't feel anything like. Very scary.
“When you're watching him get taken away in an ambulance, we'd to play another 50 minutes of a game there. It puts a lot of things in perspective.
“His mom and his girlfriend were around and you could see them following the St John's down the tunnel.
“You're thinking 'what the hell' but we got a call I'd say 20 minutes after the game that he'd started getting movement back already and he actually came down to the club that night for a half hour which was brilliant to see him.
“I don't know should he have because he was walking very gingerly but it was brilliant to see him and just to know that he was back up on his feet because you just don't know how those things are going to turn out.”
Thankfully, McWhinney’s recovery has gone well, but it’s too early to say yet when or if he’ll make a comeback to Gaelic Football.
He remains a very important part of the group though, and surely a source of inspiration for all of his team-mates.
“He's doing very well,” said O’Driscoll. “We played Mallow last Friday night and he was at it.
“I think, I could be wrong, but he's been doing classes for his dexterity and physio and rehab and that. He's doing quite well, I think he returned to work this week or last even.
“So he's well down the road and making a full recovery which is brilliant. In regards to him playing, I don't think that's a decision he's made or will be making for another while.
“But in regards to his recovery, he's doing brilliantly and he's almost there.
“He wouldn't be looking for people to put the arm around him. He's about the team and that. He's just getting on with it. It's brilliant.”
O’Driscoll is well aware of the extent of the challenge that Slaughtneil will pose in Saturdays semi-final.
The Derry side are powered by the hurt of losing the 2015 and 2017 All-Ireland Finals, but O’Driscoll is confident that Nemo will match them for pure desire.
“We're going to be up against a team that were on the cusp of it last year, so they have their own hunger for it too.
“I don't think there's going to be any false sense that we're going to get it easy against them.
“We really want to get one ourselves. Sure you're still a step away because this is just a semi-final.
“So, it's a hunger to get that because no-one on our panel has one. That's the main goal for us.”