Paul Kerrigan eager to maintain Nemo's high standards
By Cian O'Connell
In Nemo Rangers the emphasis is always placed on giving something back.
Players retire, but new roles are found for them as coaches, managers or administrators.
It is similar in most clubs throughout the country, but Nemo stress the value of continuity. No job is irrelevant in Nemo because everywhere you turn an All Ireland winner exists - 1973, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1994, and 2003 all culminated with the Leeside outfit perched on the summit of the club game.
Ultimately it means a deep tradition exists perfectly illustrated by their sensational roll of honour: 21 Cork Championships have yielded 16 Munster titles and seven All Irelands - a truly remarkable haul.
"We’ve a rich history of really, really, really, really good players putting it back into the club," Paul Kerrigan explains.
"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.
Triumphing domestically in Cork doesn't ever appear to be enough for Nemo. "So nearly three quarters of the time, we’ve won the Munster club," Kerrigan adds.
"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."
The 2018 Cork Championship loss to Castlehaven bothered Nemo significantly. "We lost to Castlehaven last year, I think it was the last 16 which is very unlike us," Kerrigan admits.
"We were brutal. We were very flat on the day. Fellas had an extra long winter, and I think that they really looked at themselves. They maybe worked on stuff that they needed to.
"A lot of lads have bought into the strength and conditioning thing now, which wouldn’t have been too big of a thing.
"We’d a pretty good championship. We had a big quarter-final against the Barrs, who were the reigning champions. We’d about a four or five week build-up to that, and fellas were really focused for that. Then once we won that, it was two weeks, two weeks, and we kicked on from there."
Now Nemo are back in familiar territory in a 19th provincial decider. Only two Munster finals out of the previous 18 have been lost including 2015 when Michael Quinlivan mined a daring last gasp goal for Sunday's opponents Clonmel Commercials.
"I was captain on the day," Kerrigan recalls. "It was very devastating. 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 10 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."
That is just the way it is in Nemo. The next challenge is what dominates the agenda and with so many decorated players in the club Kerrigan acknowledges it is easy not to have an ego.
"100%," Kerrigan replies. "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 continues to embrace every challenge with Nemo.