“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso
This quote is certainly attributable to the recent success of North Tipperary’s number one football club Nenagh AFC, who dominated the North Tipperary junior football scene for a number of years, winning five consecutive league titles and most of the cups on offer in the seasons leading up to the end of the 2014/15 campaign.
That success was largely built off the back of a number of different bodies of work undertaken by the club over the last 20 years. The three main areas that have helped Nenagh to prosper have been the successful club lotto, the development of excellent facilities at the Brickfields site and the huge focus on developing the underage structure in the club. These elements, combined with natural talent and hard work of players, management and other members of the club, allowed ‘The Blues’ to assert dominance across almost all age brackets in North Tipperary and beyond. In 2014 Nenagh’s youths (u18s) team claimed a historical national cup victory for the club and in 2016 the under 17 side were also the winners of national honours.
In that time however, the junior men’s side, dominating locally, found themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the provincial and national cups. Running out comfortable winners on poor quality pitches was not proving to be good preparation for taking on the best junior sides in the country.
Top quality players like Mikey O’Gorman, Mikey Hogan, James McGrath and Nathan Kelly were tempted off to greener, and more competitive, pastures; Nenagh were developing excellent talent, but could offer nothing more than season after season of easy victory in North Tipperary. With the successful underage teams feeding talent into the junior sides, the club had to act; both to stop the talent drain into the Limerick leagues and to give the club, and the players, the platform to progress.
Never ones to stand still, in the summer of 2015, Nenagh AFC announced an agreement with the Limerick District League (LDL) committee, to allow the Tipperary club to compete in the LDL for the coming season. Nenagh were placed in Division 1A, the league’s second tier, and haven’t looked back. Top spot in the 2015/16 Division 1A was achieved at a canter and this season has seen Nenagh in the running for the Premier division title until the final few league fixtures, currently sitting third in the table.
Overall it has been a very successful move for Nenagh’s first team and the club has seen the return of players such as O’Gorman, Kelly and McGrath with the likes of O’Gorman, Barry Coffey and goalkeeper Aaron Savage called up to national squads at junior and underage levels.
With players from the successful underage sides coming through to the junior teams there is a clear path to success and growth for the club. Leading coaches at the club including David Rooney and Dearan O’Gorman will surely have their sights set on maintaining a run into the latter stages of the Munster junior cup and the national cup on top of continuing to shake up the established class in Limerick. It will be interesting to see how the LDL will cope with this intrusion and whether the overall quality and competitiveness of the league will benefit from the addition of a new face.
In order to understand the impact that Nenagh AFC have made since their move, TheCircular spoke to leading Limerick football journalist Alan O’Brien and got his views on Nenagh AFC’s journey into the Limerick District League (LDL), Munster’s premier amateur football league:
Was there some resistance from clubs or persons in Limerick to Nenagh AFC moving into the league?
There was certainly resistance at LDL committee level at least, with some members wanting to place the club’s ‘A’ side lower than the Division 1A berth they were eventually gifted. A cursory glance at social media would have told you that this feeling was shared to some extent by some supporters of other clubs too; particularly those of the traditional ‘big’ clubs whose hegemony was threatened by Nenagh’s arrival.
What impact have Nenagh made in the last couple of seasons?
They won the second-tier title at a canter, and were still in the hunt for the Premier Division title until the latter stages of this season. A big impact, it would be safe to say!
Is there surprise in limerick that Nenagh have been so competitive?
I am certainly surprised. I thought the close-season loss of one of their best centre-backs, combined with Mikey O’Gorman’s injury and the players’ lack of experience in such a competitive environment, would make them mid-table fodder. As it happens, they have arrived in this league in one of its weakest seasons to date, with several of the bigger clubs suffering from making poor managerial decisions in the summer. They play great football, and are very well-coached and organised compared to their peers.
What do you think hampered Nenagh’s ability to win this season’s LDL premier league?
They lack both a recognised number nine, a recognised number 10, and weak at centre-back too. That should tell you how well they’ve done as a collective this year, but the title was still just beyond them.
What would it mean for Limerick District League if Nenagh were to win the premier title sometime in the near future?
It would be very refreshing to see a new face bring home the Fran Mullally Trophy. I think the more teams that have a shout at glory, the more it raises standards across the board. Competition breeds excellence.
Can Nenagh AFC finish top of the pile in the next couple of seasons?
Strengthen in the off-season, keep the current management team on board, and the sky’s the limit, given the outstanding structure in place behind the scenes.
Alan O’Brien is the number one junior football journalist in Limerick and also covers League of Ireland, Munster Junior Cup and National Cup games. If you are interested in insightful, investigative and on the minute reporting on junior soccer please have a look at Alan’s website and twitter.