By Peter McNamara
Larry Kavanagh would have bought brother Joe a scoop on Sunday night in appreciation of the latter’s essential contributions to Nemo Rangers’ 16th Munster Club SFC title success.
Joe Kavanagh, as a player, was the type to have you on your feet, ducking and slipping by defenders at will, opening avenues for himself and others to goal.
No surprise then that his work on the training ground with the present Nemo group has added impetus and vibrancy to an attack that is simmering sweetly towards a probable tilt at All-Ireland dividends.
Both Larry and Joe were starters on the last team to bring the Andy Merrigan Cup back to Capwell in 2003 and there exists a symmetry of sorts now with the present side given their direct involvement in the chase for St Patrick’s Day silverware.
All of the qualities the Kavanaghs possessed as players are splashed all over this crop and when you add the legend that is Steven O’Brien, Conor Buckley, John Coogan and Robbie O’Dwyer into the mix, that is as potent a managerial set-up as Luke Connolly’s searing right boot.
Even though I felt it would be difficult for Nemo to prevail on Sunday, the number of people giving Kavanagh’s team virtually no chance whatsoever was a little strange.
Do people realise Nemo do not do inferiority complexes? As Larry Kavanagh succinctly put it: “Nemo are a cocky auld shower too, sure”.
Larry Kavanagh and O’Brien, primarily, have been nurturing the majority of this squad for years now following on from their harvesting of the U21 grade on Leeside and so, eventually, that talent was always going to find its feet at the highest grade, sooner rather than later.
Alan Cronin reiterated the theory he is one of the best man-markers around after containing Colm Cooper, Kevin O’Donovan performed as if competing in Munster finals was an everyday occurrence, Kevin Fulignati’s reading of the match afforded him countless opportunities to cleverly sweep and cut out ball after ball and Stephen Cronin’s authority at No. 6 is growing and growing. He is an oddly underestimated defender.
Alan O’Donovan’s and Jack Horgan’s excellence I have documented previously. Ditto the relentless Barry O’Driscoll, insatiable Colin ‘Tucker’ O’Brien (how that man was never an automatic Cork senior panellist regularly, I will never know), leader-in-chief Paul Kerrigan and the majestic Luke Connolly.
With 0-10 to his name including four from play, four frees and two 45s, Connolly was obviously the man of the match. In fact, he is the best player in Munster currently.
However, if there was one other standout MVP candidate it was Paddy Gumley.
Formerly of the Redhills club and previous inter-county operator with Cavan, Gumley’s attacking nous is a crucial component of the gameplan.
Does he ever waste possession? Very, very rarely. As Nemo clubman Michael O’Sullivan aptly put it on Sunday, “he’s ruthlessly efficient (with the ball in-hand)”.
The most competent players are the ones that make the best decisions. Constantly. Gumley is one of those, a rare breed. Each of the three scores he pilfered in open play were magnificently executed.
The point he registered with the outside of his left boot in the second half was bordering on the cheeky having checked intelligently inside his marker.
Yet, it is also the positions he takes up off the ball that mark him out as a shrewd attacker.
Nemo, of course, created six goalscoring opportunities in the first-half. And if you watch Gumley’s movement back it actually caused Dr Crokes’ defence its primary issue in the first instance of the majority of those attacks because, as the on-rushing player was darting through their rearguard, his subtle switches of position left the remaining markers in his vicinity in a spot they did not want to be in psychologically: two minds.
The defenders were unsure as to whether they should stick or twist and, by the time they had their minds made up, the Nemo man in possession had moved menacingly into that pocket in front of the goal whereby taking a shot on was more than justified.
Nemo were superb last Sunday. In fact, it was probably the team’s most accomplished display for some time.
However, it must be remembered that Dr Crokes have been on the road for over a year-and-a-half now, a point illustrated in the build-up by Larry Kavanagh as well.
So, the management team will be aware that there is sufficient evidence they can offer the players to ensure they keep their feet on the ground.
That said, there are no men in that group with any airs and graces about them anyway so that will not be a problem. If anything, the players are incredibly humble characters and rightfully so, too.
Yet, when they regroup properly in the new year Nemo will know they face an almighty battle in the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil, a club with confidence.
Additionally, it was interesting to note the subdued celebrations at the full-time whistle after they defeated Cavan Gaels last Sunday in the Ulster final.
Their aspirations are correctly even higher than provincial dominance. The way it should be.
Nevertheless, the way in which Nemo went about their business in dismantling Dr Crokes was most encouraging.
It has given the code in Cork a significant boost and it is fair to suggest now that 2018 could be a massively rewarding one for Leeside football folk.