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'They didn't think it was cruciate but they weren't too sure what it was'

Nemo Rangers Paul Kerrigan is gearing up for Saturday’s battle with Slaughtneil.

AFTER INITIAL CONCERNS about having suffered serious cruciate damage towards the end of last November’s Munster club final, Cork forward Paul Kerrigan is in line to feature for Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil on Saturday.

Paul Kerrigan Paul Kerrigan will be key for Nemo Rangers clash with Slaughtneil on Saturday. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Last year’s Cork captain had his fears eased soon after the win over Dr Crokes that it was unlikely he had torn his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) but it was not until the following Wednesday that it was confirmed he had damaged his PCL (posterior cruciate ligament).

The less severe knee injury allowed a road to recovery from that victory in Páirc Uí Rinn on 26 November to the tie with the Derry champions in O’Moore Park on 24 February.

The 2010 All-Ireland winner is happy with how his rehabilitation has gone after playing in three challenge games for the club in January.

“Our doctor and Peter Morgan, who’s a physio and obviously a player for us would have done the cruciate himself, looked at it. They didn’t think it was cruciate but they weren’t too sure what is was.

“I felt like if it was anything other than that, I’d give myself a real fighting chance of being back and it turns out I was back in pretty good time as well.

“By the time I’d even left Páirc Uí Rinn that day, Aidan Kelleher had a scan organised for me for the next day. In fairness to himself and Dr Con (Murphy), I was up with Ray Moran in Santry on the Wednesday.

“The doubt was still there until Ray Moran confirmed it. He’s the best in the business. I was put at ease then and I just couldn’t wait to get back at it then.

“I started working on the mobility with Colin Lane (Cork physio). I was wondering about fitness so I got onto Adam Doyle, the Cork strength and conditioning coach.

“He tied in Colin’s work with upper body sessions off him and that was December, every day I tore into that.

“Then I did a fitness test with Colin on the 23rd, my scores were pretty high. It was my first time really pushing it running, I worked hard in December and it just paid off. I was doing straight line running, a few turns and then by the New Year he was happy for me to go back with the lads.

“I can’t wait for the Slaughtneil game. The week after the Crokes game was easy enough and I was just determined to be in as best shape as I could and have a right crack off this.”

This will be Kerrigan’s fourth All-Ireland club semi-final but he’s the only survivor from the starting team in the 2006 loss to St Gall’s of Antrim. In 2008 Nemo Rangers saw off Mayo’s Ballina Stephenites before losing the decider to Dublin’s St Vincent’s and then they lost out to Roscommon’s St Brigid’s in 2011.

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Ger Brennan tackles Paul Kerrigan St Vincent's Ger Brennan tackles Nemo Rangers player Paul Kerrigan in the 2008 All-Ireland club final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

They have not managed to graduate as Munster champions since then.

“It’s seven years since the last one which is a really long time,” says Kerrigan.

“Even around the squad there’s only a handful of guys involved. In the lead up to the Crokes game and after it, we’ve spoken about it that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of people to try and get your hands on that medal.

“I think the Crokes game we had that level of aggression and emotion really right. We just have to make sure the occasion or thought of getting to Croke Park or the fear of losing takes over now. We just have to have that level of aggression that we can perform again the next day.”

The complexion of the Nemo Rangers squad has greatly altered. Kerrigan, Aidan O’Reilly, Colin O’Brien, Barry O’Driscoll and Ciaran O’Shea are the only players still involved that started in the 2011 reversal in the Gaelic Grounds.

Their next Cork title arrived in 2015 before they were shattered by a last-gasp Michael Quinlivan goal for Clonmel Commercials in the Munster decider. After last county’s October county final win, they have notably kicked on.

Paul Kerrigan shakes hands with Micheal Martin TD after the game Nemo Rangers Paul Kerrigan shakes hands with Micheal Martin TD after last year's Munster final. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We’ve some really good guys in their early to mid twenties in the club,” says Kerrigan.

“They’re the guys pushing. A couple of years ago there Dylan Mehigan, Willie Morgan and James Masters kind of stepped away from the seniors. Ciaran O’Shea who’s an unbelievable example was starting then, maybe he’s on the bench now as cover.

“So when they came out of the team, Larry would have sat down with a lot of the younger fellas about stepping up and following their example.

“They’re really good guys, they know what it’s about, they’ve a really good ethic and they’re driving it forward now.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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