INPHO Jamie Peters and Paul Kerrigan.
# Medal Count
'I don’t even try to slag him because he’d throw all the All-Ireland clubs back in my face!'
Clonmel’s Jamie Peters and Nemo’s Paul Kerrigan on father-son rivalries and Munster club hopes.

JAMIE PETERS SAYS Nemo Rangers inflicted upon him the longest 30 minutes of football he’s ever experienced in the 2019 Munster final.

For Paul Kerrigan, the final 30 seconds of the 2015 final against Clonmel Commercials remain the worst he’s ever felt on a football pitch.

While they will be divided in celebration or dejection by the Munster quarter-final outcome on Saturday, Peters and Kerrigan have about as much in common as any defender and free-scoring forward could ever hope to have in common.

In the last month, at least.

Clonmel captain Peters was one of seven Commercials men who achieved a new club record of six Tipperary SFC medals with their victory over Upperchurch-Drombane.

In Cork, Kerrigan won his 10th county medal against St Finbarr’s. There was some uncertainty whether any Nemo man before him ever won nine but none, they agree, can now match his record haul. And as he says with a smile, “Ten sounds a bit nicer than nine anyway.”

The celebrations were extra special for both Peters and Kerrigan. Jamie with his children Noah, six, and Ava, one last Wednesday, around for photos with the O’Dwyer Cup. Paul with his children Billy, two, and Robyn, two months, to wonder at their dad and the Andy Scannell Cup.

jamie-peters-and-noah-peters Tom O’Hanlon / INPHO Jamie Peters with his son Noah after the 2019 Tipperary senior final. Tom O’Hanlon / INPHO / INPHO

The Peters family – Jamie (six), younger brother Ross (five), and dad Willie (four) – now have 15 county medals between them.

The Kerrigans, Paul (10) and dad Jimmy (seven), have 17 Cork medals knocking around their household. Sons have overtaken fathers but remind them with caution for they have other medals in their back pockets that can’t be matched.

When Jamie won his first in 2012, he told his father he’d overtake his four county medals. “I don’t know did he believe me,” says Jamie. “He was laughing at me at the time.

“But I was deadly serious. He has a few medals himself, in fairness [an All-Ireland minor hurling title among them], but I definitely had to beat him in one.”

It’s the same for Paul: “I don’t even try to slag him because he’d throw all the All-Ireland clubs back in my face! I learned that the hard way a couple of years ago. Between the two of us, we’ve 17 together out of [Nemo’s] 23, which is a nice one to have in such a competitive and big county.”

jimmy-kerrigan Cathal Noonan / INPHO Jimmy Kerrigan. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Both, oddly enough, have equal goal tallies in county finals, Kerrigan’s two matched by corner-back Peters.

“I’d say I save it for the finals but, to be honest with you, if you ever see the videos of them, they are the worst goals ever scored in a county final,” says Peters with a chuckle.

“I’d say they were from a total of about a yard out. One of them I nearly fell over kicking it, I don’t know what I was doing. I probably got a fright I was so high up the pitch!”

Ask Kerrigan to pick his favourite title of the 10 and there’s plenty of choice. It could be his first, the many he’s top-scored in, the replay wins, his man-of-the-match performance in last year’s Covid-delayed 2020 final. But it’s none of the above. This year outranked them all.

It was his first full pre-season with Nemo in 15 years. Even when he retired from Cork duty, Covid got in the way. But what better time to make history than in the club’s centenary year? They have gone unbeaten in Cork to boot, 14 wins out of 14.

“I didn’t get to play as much as I’d like. It’s probably the most I’ve ever trained with Nemo and the least minutes I’ve played in a final but I still think it’s the best. I was really proud of the lads watching the performance they put in. 

“I didn’t really think about that 10th medal. When you’re playing the Barrs, it takes a life of its own. People I work with were saying it’s not too often you see Nemo with that level of emotion on the field after the game; big pitch invasion and older people in tears.”

paul-kerrigan-and-luke-connolly-celebrate Lorraine O’Sullivan / INPHO Paul Kerrigan and Luke Connolly celebrate after the Cork senior final. Lorraine O’Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Clonmel haven’t suffered defeat on the field of play either in 15 games this year. They owe a Nemo clubman some level of thanks for that fact. Robbie O’Dwyer, son of Micko, took over Clonmel at the start of the year alongside his fellow Waterville native John Cronin but had to step away during the early stages of championship for personal reasons.

“What he gave us throughout the year was just the sheer enjoyment because we were on the floor after the county final last year [lost to a last-minute Loughmore-Castleiney goal],” says Peters.

“He got us playing football, bonded us as a team again after that disappointment. They embedded themselves very quickly into our club.

“It was a massive disappointment they had to step aside but we’ll always have massive respect and appreciation for what they gave us at a time when we needed it.”

Nemo also needed to be picked up off the floor after their group stage elimination in 2021. Having targeted their training towards the delayed 2020 final, they hadn’t the gas in the tank to navigate through the group stages.

“A lot of fellas would have felt we were written off last year, felt people were saying we were done as a team,” says Kerrigan.

“We were drawn in the hardest group, the West Cork group of death. People were saying Nemo don’t like to travel down West Cork. We were thinking, ‘Where do you think all those counties are won?’ They’re all not just won in Páirc Uí Rinn and Páirc Uí Chaoimh. 

“It doesn’t happen too often that we’re underdogs but I think it really gets people’s backs up.”

Kerrigan’s game has evolved over the years. All about pace and power in his younger years, his ball-playing abilities and passing have come more to the fore. He’s also taken more responsibility in pushing standards off the field. If Kerrigan, with his job at Coláiste Chríost Rí, undertaking a sports psychology masters at Setanta College, and a second child after arriving, can make training four times a week, what excuse have others?

It’s in his nature. His dad played Junior C into his 40s.

“I’d say I’ll wait until my 50s for Junior C,” laughs Paul.

“I’ll manage the B or A for my 40s. But this group with Nemo is a really good group. I’m going to try to hang on their coattails for as long as I can once the head and the body are right.”

He’s had to adapt to an impact role off the bench in their recent games. It’s a role he enjoyed in his final years with Cork but it took some adjustment to not starting for his club for the first time since 2006. 

“We changed our attacking style this year. I was centre-forward for a lot of the year on my own which we traditionally wouldn’t have played. We’d have always played two-two, two in the half-forward line, and I probably found the workload a bit tough going.

“I came out of the team for the Ballincollig semi-final and they changed back to our old style of play which was probably disappointing that I didn’t get a go there but I just have to accept that I’m on the bench and as Luke Connolly said the last day, we’re lucky we have an unbelievable bench. There’s young lads stepping up and it is a 20-man game. I think that’s something Paul O’Donovan targeted at the start of the year.

“I was extremely nervous watching the final. I couldn’t relax even though the lads were putting in an unbelievable shift. I probably need to be picking my performance up a little bit coming off the bench, maybe knock those nerves out. I think I could add a little bit more when I come on.”

He feels looser and lighter when the season meanders into Munster anyway. Not that it’s bonus territory, just something different, even if Clonmel aren’t unfamiliar opposition.

Both clubs have Munster in their DNA. Nemo with all those provincial titles, 17 won out of 21 Munster campaigns. An incredible conversion rate. Kerrigan remembers back to being team mascot, sitting on a bag in the bus on the way to the county final. That was back in ’93, the year his dad won his last Munster title.

Clonmel had to wait until 2015 for their first but Peters was raised on stories of those Munster adventures. Drawing with Castleisland Desmonds, Laune Rangers, and Dr Crokes. Beating East Kerry, Waterville, St Finbarr’s, and Austin Stacks. Their record was better against Kerry than Cork teams but 2015 was the watershed moment.

clonmel-celebrate-winning James Crombie / INPHO Clonmel Commercials players celebrate their Munster final win. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Peters made a finger-tip goal-saving recovery from Kerrigan in the opening play of that match. 

It was all building up to Michael Quinlivan’s late winner.

“It was a shock. Pandemonium,” says Peters. “When the whistle blew, I was running around in a circle. I didn’t know what was going on. 

“It was one of those years that just snowballed. We got a bit of a trimming in the South final to Kilsheelan and then we just gathered a bit of momentum.

“To hit them with that killer goal, they didn’t have enough time to come back at us. If that was five minutes before, it probably would’ve went to extra time. It was just one of those games. Neither team was letting go and we just got the right side of it.”

It was something Nemo wanted to rectify in 2019, and they did.

“The better team won,” Peters adds. “We got a bit of a lesson that day. That second half was probably the longest half an hour of football I was ever involved in. If you give a team like Nemo that amount of room, they’re going to punish you.”

Fast-forward to 2022 and Kerrigan is focused on a dream finish to Nemo’s unbeaten year: “We have three more games, if we keep winning, to finish out our centenary year and it’d be a good way to finish it out.”

Páirc Uí Chaoimh will suit Clonmel, Kerrigan says. Like Nemo, they’ll want to play ball.

Nobody will give Clonmel a prayer going to the Páirc, says Peters, but they’re not going down to make up numbers.

Wherever the truth of the matter lies come Saturday, it’ll make for another story to pass on to the next generation.

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