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Finding Nemo

Published 3 weeks ago 12th November 2022 by Big John

In 1935, Kildare played Cavan in the All Ireland Football Final. Kildare were such strong favourites going into that match, many people felt Cavan were wasting their time even showing up. However, on the eve of the match the Kildare management team had what the young people today would describe as a “brain fart”.
Paddy “Cuddy” Chanders had been the Kildare goalkeeper for the entire championship and hadn’t conceded a goal. Kildare were so confident of victory they had already organised a trip to the States after the final. In their wisdom, the management team felt that Cuddy Chanders, who was a “pick and shovel man”, wouldn’t be a good ambassador for the county in the States, so they dropped him for Jim Maguire, who had never played in goal before but was a “cuff and collar” man and seen as a better man to represent Kildare abroad. The move back-fired, Cavan scored 3 goals and ran out 3.06 to 2.05 winners.
I feel if Clonmel Commercials are to survive in Pairc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow evening, then its “pick and shovel” men and not “cuff and collar” men they will need. A repeat of what we saw against Upperchurch in the county final will simply not be good enough. After 13 minutes of that game, the score stood at nil-all. Commercials scored 1:08 in the next 10 minutes playing some devastatingly good and attractive football but then only managed 2 points from placed balls in the entire second half. There were of course mitigating circumstances for that second half performance. The heavens opened at half time and the last time the rain came down that hard, Noah took up carpentry. But the county final performance was just a snapshot of how Commercials have played all year. They have yet to turn up for the full 60 minutes.
However, if they do turn up for the full hour, then I believe that they have a real chance. Not everyone agrees with me on this. I was having a few not so quite drinks last weekend and more than one person told me I was dreaming. Of course these people were dismissing my “dreams” without having seen Nemo play this year. The only evidence they could offer to back up their theory was that according to those connoisseurs of reality, the bookmakers, this game is only going one way and it isn’t the way of the Tipperary champions. I’m around long enough to know that you never see a bookie on a bicycle, but on this occasion I suspect their heads have been turned by Nemo’s performance in the Cork County Final where they overturned 2021 Munster champions, St Finbarr’s. There is no doubt that was an impressive performance but if you drill a little deeper, Nemo’s performances en-route to the county final were not impressive. In fact their quarter final match against Carbery was as poor a game of football as was ever played.
Yes they have talent and most of that talent is in their forward line. Luke Connolly was the star of the show in the Cork county final, kicking 9 points. It’s very hard to have a definitive opinion on Luke. Most players have good days and bad days. Luke trades in a dicier market. He is either brilliant or appalling and sometimes he can be both in the same game. He could miss a point from straight in front of the goal and two minutes later will kick a point that seems to defy the accepted laws of physics and geometry. It should also be pointed out that Luke’s work-rate off the ball has improved this year. Captaincy seems to suit him. I didn’t think it would.
Getting the match-up right on full forward Barry O’Driscoll with also be important. O’Driscoll is a more orthodox player than Connolly and more consistent. He serves as an artist and a maintenance man on this team. If he is humming then Nemo are signing. If Commercials can get their match-up right on him then they could well be half way to getting the job done.
Nemo of course have quality players in every position but apart from matching up on Connolly and O’Driscoll, the best advice I could offer Commercials would be to concentrate on their own game and see if they can exploit any weakness in the Nemo set-up. I felt in the 2019 Munster Club Final between these teams that Commercials afforded Nemo too much respect and probably suffered from paralysis by analysis on the day.
No doubt the Commercials management team will have noticed how many bodies Nemo commit to the middle third of the field. Taking touches on the ball in this area will lead to Nemo turning them over. If Commercials are to have any chance, getting the ball in and out of this area of the field as quickly as possible will be crucial. In Commercials favour, and probably the reason I give them a real chance, is they have some of the best kick passers of the ball this side of Kerry. It wouldn’t surprise me if I heard that the Kennedy brothers spent their youthful summers been coached by William Tell. With so many bodies committed to the middle third, Nemo often leave themselves slightly exposed at the back and with players of the pace of Michael Quinlivan and the in-form Jason Lonergan in their side, Commercials can get scores and lots of them by getting the ball to these two as early as possible.
Michael A Martin, The Taoiseach’s son, is as good a shot-stopper as there is in the country. However, I think Commercials can get at his kick-out by pressing up early and forcing him long. Clonmel have height around the middle of the field so they should, as they usually do, dominate the skies. Of course all of the above is easier said than done against a Nemo side dripping with quality players. If we are to see a repeat of the famous 2015 victory over Nemo then, as stated earlier, Commercials will have to play for the hour. Also in their favour this year is they arrive into this game “fresh” as they avoided hard games in the county championship against the likes of J.K. Brackens and Loughmore-Castleiney. The fact that the game is live on the telly should concentrate the minds as well.
You’ve heard me say this thousands of times before but don’t stop me. The start of every game is important. It can set the tone for the evening. Win or kill the throw-in and keep yourself in the game early doors. You can’t win a game in the first 15 minutes but you can certainly lose one. Commercials have started slowly in nearly all their county championship games this year, they can’t afford to do this on Saturday. They need to be “at it” from the throw in. Those of you familiar with CJ Kickham’s brilliant novel, Knocknagow, will know the hero of that book to be Matt The Thresher. Before unleashing his winning throw in the sledge throwing competition against Captain French, Matt uttered the immortal words “for the credit of the little village”. Clonmel may not be a little village but they know that the spirit of Knocknagow and Matt The Thresher will certainly be needed on Saturday.
If Commercials have a modern day Matt The Thresher, I always imagine him to be Jamie Peters. Jamie is probably the most under-rated footballer in the county but that’s because people can’t tell the difference between style and substance. Throw in the likes of Seamus Kennedy, James Morris (a future star in the making) and Kevin Fahey and you soon can see that Clonmel Commercials have their fair share of “pick and shovel” men. I would much prefer to go to war with those 4 gentlemen rather than go to war against them.
Nemo Rangers are justifiably favourites and there is no doubt this is a big ask for Clonmel Commercials but if they can subdue O’Driscoll and Connolly, then I see this game as very much 50/50 and who knows, come 8:30pm on Saturday, the Commercials anthem Lemon Tree could be ringing out in Pairc Ui Chaoimh
PS: Nemo Rangers often struck me as an unusual name for a GAA team. The origins of the name are interesting. Rangers was the name of a club based in the South Parish area of Cork. They were formed in 1893. The origin of the original Nemo team begins around 1910, when the pupils of the North Monastery were anxious to play hurling against the wishes of the school principal, who preferred to promote rugby in the school. A lay teacher, Seamus O hAodha invented the name Nemo, as he wanted the letters NM in the name and as Latin was taught in the school, he came up with the name Nemo from the Latin word meaning “nobody” – perhaps because they were outlawed by the powers that be. Pupils from the South Parish / Turners Cross area who were attending the North Monastery, then adopted the name and set up the Nemo club in 1915. Both teams existed side by side for a few years until they amalgamated in 1922.

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