All Ireland club championship tops the list this weekend

We all remember different defeats with more emotion than others. Some leave a very raw scar that takes a long time to heal. It may be from a game that annoyed you intensely, or 60 minutes you would love to have re-lived again.

Defeat in an All-Ireland club semi-final is a tough station and one that does leave a bitter after-taste. The vast majority of clubs or players don't get too many bites of that particular apple and a semi-final is a hateful spot to go out.

The club does not get to savour the pomp and occasion of a big event on St Patrick's Day and as a player you don't get the glorious opportunity to play the sport of your choice with people who mean the most to you in Croke Park.

I can still vividly remember the losses Corofin suffered at the hands of Killarney Crokes and Laune Rangers in 1992 and 1996. The mistakes we made both on and off the field and the extremely bitter Nordic gale and wind-chill factor that swept across Cusack Park in Ennis in February 1996.

It was hateful. And it was by far the coldest day I ever experienced playing football. The numbness in our limbs was so bad that the jerseys had to be peeled off us after the game had ended.

Despite that, the innermost sensation was caused by the knowledge that we had let another chance to play in an All-Ireland final, and perhaps win it, slip by, and maybe we would never get the chance to do so again. Those are the memories you are left with when you lose.

That is in the past and now the current crop of footballers who represent Corofin and Connacht must try to grab the All-Ireland final ticket that lies on offer next Saturday in Mullingar.

They face a formidable foe in Kilmacud Crokes from Dublin who themselves were All-Ireland champions back in 1995.

Crokes are managed by Paddy Carr who is an extremely experienced football manager. And he has a lot of high quality players at his disposal, current, former, or future Dublin county players. Defender Paul Griffin and free-scoring Mark Vaughan are the two top Dublin county players in the Crokes’ squad. They also have Longford's Brian Kavanagh who is a class forward, and the experienced and mobile Conor Morris who plies his county trade with Wexford.

Other Kilmacud players to watch next Saturday are Ray Cosgrove, Pat Burke, Marc Davoran, Cian O' Sullivan, Barry O' Rourke, former Fermanagh player Liam McBarron, and the two Magees, Darren and team captain Johnny. They will be hard to beat.

And the massively disappointing news from the Corofin camp that their star defender and best man-marker Mickey Comer is unavailable due to a cruciate knee injury does not help the cause.

It is cruel luck on Comer who was man-of-the-match in the county final for his superb job in marshalling Derek Savage. He can now only look on from the sidelines and hope his teammates can march on without him.

Comer would have been the ideal man to mark Brian Kavanagh. In his absence Jimmy Sice and his management team may be forced to pull the human dynamo Alan Burke to wing-back rather than the wing-forward role in which he has been thriving over the past few weeks.

It is imperative Corofin maintain their low concession average if they are to advance. They only conceded a total of 0-14 against Castlerea and Eastern Harps en route to winning the Connacht title and they conceded a mere 0-6 in the All-Ireland quarter-final. However this Saturday is a big step-up in the quality and quantity of forwards they need to nullify.

The positives for Corofin coming into this semi-final is that their midfield pairing of Aidan Donnellan and Greg Higgins has been going reasonably well and the spine of their defence, team captain Kieran Fitzgerald at full-back and Damien Burke, are in good form.

However if Corofin are to advance to face the winners of Drom/Broadford or Crossmaglen, it is at the other end of the park they need to raise their game.

Gary Sice, Alan O'Donovan, and Joe Canney have impressed all season, but a bigger scoring return will be needed by the other four or five players who see action in the forwards next Saturday if the Connacht side is to have their day out in Dublin in just over three weeks’ time.

Ideally Kieran Comer will take ownership of the full-forward position and use his skill and power to get on some ball and bang in a goal or two. Green flags will be needed.

There are some injury concerns over Jason Killeen and the other positions to be decided up front are being fought over by the likes of Padraig and David Hanley, Kevin Murphy, David Morris, Trevor Burke, Shane Monaghan, Justin Burke, and Tomas Costello.

The bottom line is that whoever gets starting jerseys from 10 to 15, they need to make a real impact on the Kilmacud rearguard. The Corofin defence has been lauded during the year, but they will have their work cut out next Saturday to keep the score down to around 1-11 to 1-13, and the question is, who will out-score that up the other end?

The bookies have Kilmacud at 8/13 and Corofin at 7/4 with 13/2 the draw and I could not disagree with those odds. Kilmacud deserve to be favourites.

Nevertheless, I was at the game in 2006 when Salthill beat them by 1-9 to Kilmacud's 1-7, and they are beatable. I just wonder if Corofin have the forwards to hit a game winning tally.

I hope they prove me wrong. And damn wrong at that.

 

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