Winning a provincial title at club level is a great honour and Galway County champions Corofin annexed their fourth Connacht title last Sunday by easily defeating Eastern Harps from Sligo. Corofin’s previous provincial successes came in 1991, 1995 and 1997 and they are now second in the provincial honours list behind the magnificent Clann na Gael team that won seven titles, including a sensational six-in-a-row from 1984 to 1989.
That team was powered by the likes of Roscommon great Tony McManus and they were dreadfully unfortunate not to win at least one All-Ireland club title.
It is impossible to imagine any club team winning even a hat-trick of Connacht titles in this day and age, never mind six in succession. That achievement will, in my estimation, never be equalled.
Crossmolina Deel Rovers did come close to a hat-trick of titles when they won three out of four titles in 1999, 2000 and 2002, with only Charlestown breaking up their run.
Having gotten out of the bear-pit of Connacht, Corofin will be hopeful of building on their success and following the lead of fellow Galway clubs Caltra in 2004 and Salthill in 2006 to go all the way to Croke Park next March. They are improving all the time and with the likes of Nemo Rangers out of the frame, every team that is left in the competition will fancy their chances at this juncture. Corofin must first play Tir Chonnaill Gaels on January 18 and the winners of that will face either Kilmacud Crokes or Rhode in the All-Ireland semi-final. Up North, Ballinderry Shamrocks take on Crossmaglen in Enniskillen this Sunday in what should be a cracker of a game and the winners of that tie will be a tough nut to crack for who ever meets them.
Why Corofin can win the All Ireland next year
When you have four county defenders amongst your starting six you won’t concede too many scores. Team captain Kieran Fitzgerald, who is a garda based in Athlone has led by example all season and he is one of the most popular figures in Gaelic football. He is joined by three county colleagues: Michael Comer, who was outstanding again last Sunday and Damien and Alan Burke. Build your team from the back is an old adage; and Corofin are doing just that.
Genuine pace in the side
Pace is one commodity you cannot buy. And Corofin have a lot of it all over their side. Up front Joe Canney is a real knee jerker for any full-back and guys like Alan O’ Donovan and Gary Sice are no slouches. Greg Higgins at midfield can shift down the gears too and Alan Burke is a blistering GTi model at wing-back. Burke was glorious last Sunday and gave a fabulous display of wing-back play. On numerous occasions he left three and four opposition players trailing in his wake and he has to be given a solid run of games at wing-back in the Galway jersey next year after his club commitments are over to see if he can transfer his breath-taking club form to the county set-up. Burke got a raw deal last season. Few would deny that, and no doubt based on what he has witnessed over the past few months Liam Sammon will concur that Burke merits a right shot at a starting jersey next year. He is only 24 and if his pace and ball skill were channelled in the right direction on big pitches like Castlebar or Croke Park, he would be some addition in the Galway colours.
Experience both on and off the field
The majority of the Corofin players have been around the block. Centre-forward Trevor Burke made his senior club debut back in 1989 and midfielder Aiden Donnellan has pulled the number nine jersey over his back most years since 1993, while the vast majority of the starting XV have represented Galway at different grades.
That experience is invaluable in winter football. Likewise, their management team of Jimmy Sice, Eddie Steede, Pat Curley, Brian Silke and Ger Keane have all been involved with football all their lives and none of them are members of the baby boom. That experience of what is required for the marathon of trying to win an All-Ireland club title has stood them in good stead and with firm hands on the rudder they will be hopeful of going a few steps further.