Corofin need a big display to see off improving Mountbellew

Mountbellew's Joe Bergin, who played at midfield in the drawn All-Ireland final in 2000  with Galway, is still going strong around the middle for his club 17 years later....and still searching for a first ever senior club medal.  Will Sunday be the day it finally happens?

Mountbellew's Joe Bergin, who played at midfield in the drawn All-Ireland final in 2000 with Galway, is still going strong around the middle for his club 17 years later....and still searching for a first ever senior club medal. Will Sunday be the day it finally happens?

The county senior football final this Sunday at 4pm in Tuam Stadium is a repeat of the 2015 final between Mountbellew-Moylough and current champions Corofin.

They also met in last year's semi-final.

Two years ago in the final Corofin won easily in the finish on a scoreline of 3-13 to 0-12 with Ronan Steede, Michael Farragher and Ian Burke netting the majors.

However, a lot of variables have changed since then. Corofin have not impressed all season and looked stale and flat in their one-point win over Annaghdown, whereas Mountbellew have been flying in their last few games and have been the best club side in the county over the past few months.

Most people are expecting a close affair in three days' time. Mountbellew are a vastly improved team from 2015 and 2016, and they are many people's fancy to win on Sunday.

The experienced Muiris Mac Gearailt is down to referee the final.

Mountbellew's first senior title

in 31 years?

The game on Sunday is attracting considerable interest with Mountbellew aiming for their first senior title since 1986, and Kevin O'Brien's Corofin panel seeking what would be a historic "five-in-a-row" of senior titles for the club.

O'Brien, who is from Belclare, a half parish of Corofin, was a selector in 2014/2015 when the club won the All-Ireland club title in March. He took over the reins when Stephen Rochford left and knows this is a different black and amber team they face on Sunday.

"Mountbellew have been hitting some really big scores, and they have a bunch of young and talented lads in their team who are very ambitious and well organised," says O'Brien. "They will be very hard to stop. They have been hugely impressive all season and were really ruthless in their big wins over St James and Monivea in the semi-final.

"They are a very balanced team and in guys such as Cathal Kenny and Joe Bergin, who is really rolling back the years, they have two top players to add their experience to the younger lads. Plus, they have some top forwards like Michael Daly and Barry McHugh who is a super free-taker and is hitting big scores for them."

O'Brien believes McHugh is a "really fine player" who was probably unfortunate not to see some game time in the championship with Galway.

"We know that they will be very hard to beat. They will believe they have been building for this game over the past two seasons, and we are expecting a massive battle on Sunday".

Will All-Star hurler Daithí Burke be available

There has been much speculation this week whether Daithí Burke, who had a magnificent year with the Galway hurlers, will be togging for Corofin.

Burke won an All-Ireland club medal with the club in 2015 and was a huge player for them that season and last year.

He has yet to feature for the club since last February when they lost to Killarney Crokes and it will be interesting to see if he takes any part, or is even togged on Sunday.

O'Brien was non-committal on the issue.

"As of now we don't fully know if Daithí will be with us. He has been on a complete break from football since last February and he has not been with us at all during the Galway championship.

"We understand his commitment to hurling and he was superb along with his teammates in winning the Liam McCarthy Cup. We would be delighted if he can link up with us, but we will have to wait and see. Daithí is a top sportsman and competitor, and any club would be delighted to have him in their ranks."

Michael Donnellan's Corofin connection

Another noteworthy point of interest on Sunday is that Mounbellew's manager this season is former Corofin star forward Michael Donnellan, who won seven county senior titles with the club from 1991 to 2002.

Donnellan is an experienced and highly rated coach and manager, having been a selector with the Corofin seniors for a few years. He also spent three years with Moycullen, helping them rise from intermediate to the senior ranks.

Donnellan has "massive respect and love" for Corofin and the Corofin GAA club.

"I played with the club at all levels for 20 years and had loads of extraordinary days and memories wearing the club jersey, with the highlight being the All-Ireland win in 1998," Donellan says.

"Corofin are the benchmark that all other clubs in the county have been striving to reach for the past 10 years, and their current panel and management team are top men.

"However, my role now, and that of our management team of Kieran Murphy, Micheal O'Reilly and Noel Simmons, is to try to make the current Mountbellew squad the best that they can be.

"We are really fortunate to have a marvellous group of players who are hugely committed to the club and have done anything we have asked of them all year. We have a really young panel, with possibly seven or eight of our starting 15 for the senior final still U21, and this weekend will be the first senior county final for a lot of them."

Mountbellew will be hoping Eoin Finnerty (ankle ), Matthew Barrett (shoulder ), who saw some action in their semi-final win, will be able to make a real impact on Sunday. They are still without Gary Sweeney (cruciate ) and impressive corner back James Foley (knee ) who are both big losses.

Despite those absentees, Donnellan is hoping for a big performance from his team.

"We are very young side, with a few obvious exceptions, and we are hoping the team will play to their potential - that they don't get overawed or nervous of the occasion. Corofin have been champions for four years in a row now and were last defeated in Galway football back in 2012 - so we know we are up against a wonderful and supremely experienced outfit.

"That said, we will be going to Tuam on Sunday to take the game to them, and if our lads really play as we know they can, and they produce a performance that they are proud of, we'll see where that takes us."


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