The Corofin senior football squad take on St Brigid’s this Sunday morning in the hope of matching the famous Clan Na nGael club side from Roscommon on the provincial roll of honour with seven Connacht senior titles.
That Clan na nGael side were an outstanding team despite not winning an All-Ireland title, winning their seven Connacht club titles in an eight year period from 1982 to 1989. Interestingly, they have not won a provincial title in the intervening 17 years, whereas this Sunday’s protagonists, St Brigid’s (Roscommon ) and Corofin, have annexed 10 between them since 1991. Two of those St Brigid’s successes in finals (2006 & 2011 ) came from beating Corofin, which adds an additional subplot to Sunday’s clash.
The past is in the past
Corofin team manager, Kevin O’Brien, who is in his first year in charge after serving three successful years as a selector with Stephen Rochford, insists that what has gone before between these sides is irrelevant as regards this weekend. “All this current group of players want to do, and all they can do to be fair to them, is go out on Sunday and play as well as they can,” he said. “We know that St. Brigid’s will pose a massive threat to us, however it is a challenge we are looking forward to.
“They are a quality side, recent All-Ireland winners (2013 ) with some top-class players and we know that we will have to be at our best to beat them. St Brigid’s, Castlebar, and Corofin have all done well over the past few years when they have gotten out of Connacht and whichever side wins on Sunday will be confident of doing well in the All-Ireland series too.”
O’Brien is not prepared to look back at the club’s two defeats to the St Brigid’s men in the 2006 and 2011 Connacht finals and makes the reasonable and logical point that a lot of personnel on both sides have changed in the intervening period: “Some of our players this weekend were playing U14 championship five years ago, never mind 2006, and those games have no relevance to them,” he said.
“We are focussing on ourselves and what we have to do to win. We were very pleased with aspects of our game in the semi-final however we have plenty to improve on as regards our tackling, link play, and consistency. We went long periods without scoring and that is something we need to work on.”
Apart from a long-term hamstring injury to Martin Farragher, who is a quality corner forward, Corofin have a full hand to pick from, which means that they will be looking to the likes of the experienced Gary Sice, Michael Farragher, Ian Burke, Michael Lundy, and Jason Leonard up front to hit the scores they will need to win the game.
Their midfield engine will likely be powered by double All-Star hurler Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede, and the likes of Kieran Fitzgerald, Conor Cunningham, Ciaran McGrath, and the Silke brothers will be required to keep the much-vaunted St Bridgid’s forwards in check.
O’Brien is looking at the final this weekend from a macro and strategic level for the club and stresses the fact that what is also hugely important on Sunday is that the entire community of Corofin is on the move in the name of GAA and parish pride.
“The vast majority of the parish will be on the move to Carrick-on-Shannon,” O’Brien said. “Days like this Sunday are a really special occasion for the whole area of Belclare and Corofin and we need to be aware of that fact too and appreciate it. This weekend is more than just about football for us. It is about a club doing the best it can, to represent its place and people. It is about the U8 and U10 and U12 teams and all the other teams and their managers and parents having a day out and supporting their club.
“Players from the Connacht winning teams of the 1990s are putting a huge amount back into the club now, with the likes of Jamsie Lardner involved with the U6s and Aidan Donnellan coaching underage teams too, and many other men and women doing great work too in different ways.
“A club needs a constant flow of people coming on board at all levels to help out and put the work in, if it is to stay successful and the senior panel and the rest of us are just part of that big jigsaw.”