There is a gush of expectation and excitement in Galway football circles this week in anticipation of a first county final between Tuam Stars and Corofin for 16 years.
The game is fixed for 3pm this Sunday in Tuam Stadium and both sets of supporters are asked to turn up in big numbers for the highlight of the club competition in the county.
The two sides clashed in both the 1994 and 1995 county finals. Tommy Carton and Ja Fallon inspired Tuam to victory in the first final, while Corofin came through a year later courtesy of a sensational Derek Reilly goal.
In the intervening years different squads of Corofin players have climbed the steps of either Tuam Stadium or Pearse Stadium fairly regularly, and the club has won the county final on seven occasions since the sides last met in 1995.
Tuam have not been back in the final since 1995. However this is a club that boasts a massive history in Galway football and it is the most successful club in the county by far, having won the title on 25 occasions.
The Tuam team that collected seven consecutive titles from 1954-1960 contained players like Sean Purcell and Frankie Stockwell and is considered by some aficionados to be the best club side ever in the county.
Despite Tuam’s glorious history in county finals, Corofin will start as hot favourites on Sunday - they are 1/2 - based on their recent pedigree of success and the quality of their performance in their victory over Milltown in the county semi-final.
However that was five weeks ago and Tuam Stars are coming into good form. They have improved over the past few weeks and will be full of belief having been unbeaten for four consecutive Sundays against Mountbellew and Salthill.
Most pundits expect a tight game, especially if the atrocious weather conditions that have been prevalent all week continue, and I heard a few football men in Tuam this week talking about the possibility of yet another draw.
Alan Flynn’s young side is very strong down the middle.
Team captain Tony Costello is an inspirational figure at centre-back. Ian McGough has been making regular weekend trips from Britain to put in some sterling performances at full-back, and Noel Henry and Aonghus Tierney are accomplished defenders who do not lack belief. In the engine room both John Lawless and the highly-influential Brendan Devaney have been very impressive at eight and nine.
Their two top forwards are the pacey Jamie Murphy and county u-21 star Conor Doherty who has been immense in the past four games.
County defender Garry O’Donnell has also been relocated to wing-forward, but he plays a sweeping role from there and his power and strong-running is a major plus for the side. By working back, it frees up Noel Henry to play an attacking role from wing-back.
Corofin need to contain Murphy and Doherty
Corofin have a host of quality defenders and they will look to team captain Kieran Fitzgerald, Alan Burke and Mickey Comer to stop Tuam’s attack. It is likely Fitzgerald will pick up Doherty if he lines out at full-forward, and the speedy and experienced Alan Burke will be given yet another “man-marking” job to try to nullify Jamie Murphy who can be a real livewire when in possession.
Corofin need to curtail those two men, who hit 0-2 each in last weekend’s 1-08 to 0-9 victory over Salthill. If they are stopped, it will be a huge step in the right direction for Corofin who are contesting their fourth consecutive final.
New Galway selector Alan Flynn is in his third year in charge of the Stars and he is hopeful they can produce a winning performance this Sunday.
“We have worked hard all year and we have been improving in all aspects of our play over the past few weekends. Thankfully we have no injuries for Sunday and we have some momentum behind us.
“All the lads in the panel have been doing terrific work over the past few months and they have given their all for the team and the club. We know Corofin will be a step-up in class on anything we have met all year, but we will set up the best we can, and see where that takes us.”
Corofin boss Brian Silke is in his first year in charge of the club’s senior side and he is under no illusion about the task that faces his panel.
“We have not played for the past few weeks and that is not a help. Unfortunately one of our best young players and midfielder, Michael Farragher, is unavailable through suspension for the final and he is a big loss. Tuam are in their home patch and are on a good run. They will have huge home support, so we will have to be at our best to get over the winning line. Everyone involved with Corofin football has a lot of respect for Tuam Stars and we know that Sunday is going to be a real battle.”