Corofin juggernaut gathering real momentum
Hard-earned win over Castlebar will steel Connacht champions for All-Ireland series
Corofin players celebrate their Connacht senior club football championship final win over Castlebar Mitchels at Tuam Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
There was only one moment when it looked as if Corofin might lose Sunday’s Connacht club final but it was a dangerous moment.
Despite having Mayo champions Castlebar at their mercy for a period in the second half, the Galway men surrendered four points without reply in the last 12 twelve minutes of the game. David Stenson’s equalising free, under extreme pressure, fired the visitors with new belief.
The Corofin-ites who had made the ten minute drive across to Tuam Stadium were perplexed. Their team had all but disappeared and after Bernard Power restarted, Castlebar had possession again and were coming in waves at the defence. This was where the day could have been lost.
A spilled ball was fly-kicked from the terrace side of the ground and if any Castlebar player had gambled on a run towards goal, they would have been gifted the easiest winning score imaginable
“Yeah it’s something we’re trying to work on and just close out games when we get in these positions,” agreed Ian Burke, the elusive corner-forward who menaced Castlebar’s defence all afternoon.
“But fair play to Brigid’s and Castlebar today, brilliant outfits down through the years and up until this year they’re still brilliant outfits. You’re going to get nothing soft and that’s just the way it goes, you’re going to have to keep going to the well and keep digging and thank God we’re getting the results.”
They are getting the results. It has been part of the rhythm of Corofin’s season. Only two months ago, they looked on the ropes in the county semi-final against Annaghdown, when Damien Comer and Ciarán Duggan led the challengers in a display that looked set to deprive Corofin at a shot at a fifth consecutive county title. Three points down in a tight game with ten minutes left, it took a late scoring burst by Justin Burke to guide Corofin through by 0-11 to 1-7.
As Gary Sice said immediately after Sunday’s game, Corofin has gotten better as the year went on. Given that they had been comprehensively beaten by Dr Crokes last February in the All-Ireland semi-final, it began to look as if the seasons were beginning to catch up on a fine team. But here they are, safely through Galway and now through Connacht and among the handful of All-Ireland contenders still standing.
“Ah well Crokes are a phenomenal outfit,” argues Burke.
“We saw that last year. They were well deserving of their victory, they were better than us on the day but we just regrouped. We just take it game by game, we don’t really look year by year. We just take it to improve one game after the next so we’re trying to improve from Brigid’s to Castlebar and now Castlebar to Fulham Irish and hopefully we can go there and get a result.”
If there was one benefit to Corofin’s semi-final defeat last spring, it was that the Galway football public got to see Burke playing in maroon in the summer.
Over the past few seasons, he was one of those players whose prolonged involvement at club level seemed to work against his potential as a senior player. But he was a revelation for Galway in a Saturday evening qualifier, particularly against Donegal in Markievicz Park and in the All-Ireland quarter final against Kerry. As anyone who has seen him play knows, he looks at home in the elite company.
“It was a brilliant year, now. I enjoyed playing for Galway. Different level, it brought me on, I believe, a lot. I just got out there and was happy to put in a good performance. I was going well in training and I just tried to transfer that to the pitch and thankfully I did. And I think my performances here are testament to that, the couple of months I had inside there, and I’m hoping to push on again for next year.”
The irony is that Corofin’s latest success means Burke will be among the absentees when Kevin Walsh calls his extended squad together for the early season purges. If they make it as far as the All-Ireland final, he will miss out on the majority of Galway’s Division One Allianz League campaign.
“That’s not my call, management will have to talk about it over Christmas and see what they can work out between them and we’ll just go with that.”
Corofin have one more assignment to get past before the winter solstice. Their quarter-final in Ruislip against the London champions will be regarded as a formality but they still have to get on the field and win the game.
“Yeah, ah look, that’s the way it is, they deserve their chance, they won the London Championship so we’ll give them their just deserts and hopefully we’ll get a performance over there.
“It’s not that easy but it’s a game that we have so we just have to get down and get on with it and knuckle down for the next two weeks. We won’t be taking any team for granted from here on out and the London champions are the next ones so they will be getting our full focus for the next two weeks.”