Corofin feel they have more to give after Connacht club title

Gary Sice aware of long break before All-Ireland semi-final against Dr Crokes

Corofin’s Gary Sice and Niall McInerney of Brigid’s during the Connacht senior club football championship final at  Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Corofin’s Gary Sice and Niall McInerney of Brigid’s during the Connacht senior club football championship final at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Corofin’s Michael Farragher was cutting through on goal with a team-mate free on his inside when the referee, Jerome Henry, whistled for full time in Sunday’s Connacht club final. It felt like an act of mercy towards the Roscommon club who were, as their manager Frankie Dolan testified, “beaten out the gate”.

It’s true that St Brigid’s are a less experienced team than the side which won All-Ireland honours in 2013 and as one Corofin player noted afterwards, the one player from that era that they couldn’t replace is Dolan himself. And it’s also true that there is an edge to this rivalry.

Gary Sice played on both the Corofin sides that lost to St Brigid’s in 2006 and 2011 and after an another hugely authoritative performance in his customary roving wing-forward position, he acknowledged that those defeats had been a big personal motivation.

“You hear that in the background and that makes everything worth it,” he said even as the team captain Alan Burke lifted the Shane McGettigan Cup.

“If you told us that we would get a clip at Castlebar and Brigid’s in the one year and that we’d do what we did. I’d have taken it, no bother. It is nice to perform on a big day and I’m glad we did. The red and green. That was enough. These boys have been hanging over us for a long time and there was an awful lot of talk in the papers during the week.

“I think Frankie embarrassed himself, really, during the week when he said that it doesn’t matter what we do; that they are just better than us. Well, I hope he is slightly quieter this evening going home than he was during the week. But yeah, these guys were hanging over us and everyone had talked about what happened before. But we knew we didn’t perform last time. And today they got the full belt of us.”

Crispness and collective understanding

In fairness, Dolan could not have been more complimentary to the Galway club afterwards in praising what was obvious to everyone in Páirc Seán MacDiarmada: the day belonged to Corofin from the get go.

They broke away from their line at the crescendo of the national anthem as if impatient to get on with things and tore into the occasion. The crispness and collective understanding and ambition of Corofin’s attacking play have been the abiding feature of this Connacht campaign.

With Slaughtneil’s wonder story continuing in Ulster, Colm Cooper leading the Killarney charge and St Vincent’s favourites to emerge from Leinster, the club football scene is fascinatingly poised. But Sice believes that there is more in his team.

“We had good patches. That is not going to beat whoever is next. We know that. It’s not like. But it is 27th of November and you are going to have mistakes today that won’t happen on a better day. So we will enjoy the next two weeks and we will understand then that this won’t be enough to go further.”

This is Sice’s fourth Connacht club medal and as a senior player, he is aware of the pitfalls of maintaining the intensity of a season over the long break between winning the province and the resumption of the All-Ireland season in February.

“It tripped us twice before. We played Kilmacud and Galls and we got caught on both times where we either went too hard or didn’t go hard enough.”

Smooth transition

Critically, when they went all the way to the All-Ireland on their most recent attempt under Stephen Rochford in the 2014-15 season and Kevin O’Brien’s role as manager has facilitated a smooth transition.

“I think Roch brought in a great way of doing things and we have a super management team at the moment who have been there and done that. We have the best of the best and they look after us one hundred percent and that is the big thing is that when they tell us to do something we trust them one hundred percent and that is the difference between winning and losing: trusting who is around you.”

But the quality of the Corofin’s performance caught the eye, even if the contest was heavily one-sided. Dolan’s assessment of the game makes it clear that Brigid’s shortcomings may have enhanced Corofin’s overall lustre.

“We didn’t expect to blitz them like that. I think the heart went out of it with about twenty minutes to go,” Sice said. That will inform their thinking when they sit down to consider how best to tackle the Kerry and Munster champions. Still, they made light work of one of the premier football clubs in the country.

“We still had to do a job and I think we were very professional about it. Even towards the end we were still looking to do the right things. We had young lads come in there as well and did very well and tackled like it was the first minute of the game.”

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