Next Sunday in Tuam Stadium (2pm ) the two best senior club Gaelic football teams in Connacht over the past three years do battle for the Shane McGettigan cup, and the honour of being the 2015 Connacht champions. Corofin are current Connacht and All-Ireland club champions, and they put those titles on the line facing the last team to beat them in championship action two years ago, in Tuam.
An interesting subplot to Sundays joust, is that Corofin manager Stephen Rochford is the only nominee for the vacant Mayo job, and he will probably be in-situ for the FBD league in the green and red colours for early January. Stephen and his management team will know that the challenge they face in three days’ time will be a massive step up on what they have faced over the past few months. Castlebar are without doubt the best squad of players that they have faced since last February, when they beat St. Vincent’s in O’ Connor Park in Tullamore.
As All Ireland champions and having been undefeated in championship football for over 24 months, Corofin are rightly going into the game as slight favourites with the money men, and they’ll feel they owe the Mitchels after what happened two years ago. If they are to win on Sunday they will need some key men to produce really big displays. Firstly 2001 All-Star Kieran Fitzgerald will have to keep tabs on big Danny Kirby at full-back and Liam Silke will have to do his usual no-fuss marking job on whomever he is assigned to.The probable Corofin midfield of Daithí Burke and Ronan Steede will have to nullify the influence of Barry Moran who ran riot two years ago and is a big unit if he gets momentum. Up front, Corofin can be stunningly good if they get fast ball and take the right options. Players like Gary Sice, Martin Farragher, Ian Burke, Michael Lundy and team captain Michael Farragher have all shown what they can do in the past year and they will have to be their very best this weekend.
The Mitchels have a good spread of players throughout their team that have played at inter-county level with Mayo. Their key go-to men are big Barry Moran at midfield, Tom Cunniffe, Paddy Durcan and Eoghan O’ Reilly in defence and their two man full-forward line of Danny Kirby and Richie Feeney will be a real handful for the Corofin defence anchored around the likes of Liam Silke, Kieran Fitzgerald, Alan Burke and Conor Cunningham. Castlebar have some other quality players too such as Donie Newcombe, Neil Douglas, Neil Lydon and Shane Hopkins.
Assuming that the weather conditions don’t turn the game into a complete lottery and Storm Barney has moved on by Sunday to play with his Dinosaur friends somewhere else, I would give a slight nod to Corofin to come through the gap. It should be a tight squeeze though.