Keane's Corofin eager to take the final step
DIE hard competitors assert that second place is nowhere in any sport -- and if that's the case, losing semi-finalists must rank somewhere south of oblivion.
There is a peculiar depth of anguish and sense of loss associated with any team that goes out of a competition at the penultimate stage.
The experience can be akin to the story of the 101st Airborne, the American paratroop regiment prior to the D-Day landings in France in 1944. Before they took off, the soldiers were told bluntly: "Two out of three of you won't be coming back."
In the planes en route to the drop zone, each man silently looked to his left and right and thought "gee, I'm going to miss these guys."
And that's how it is for each semi-final team. All four of them believe this is their year, that their destiny is to lift that shiny trophy.
Losing a semi-final? In short, it's the pits. And that is what makes the presence of Corofin from Galway in tomorrow's All-Ireland Club football clash with Ulster champions St Gall's all the more intriguing.
Just a year ago, the Corofin lads were exactly at this stage of the competition, only to lose to eventual champions Kilmacud Crokes.
Redemption beckons, but nobody truly knows if defeat last February can inspire a Corofin backlash at the expense of St Gall's.
Corofin manager Ger Keane hopes that will be the case, but admits: "It's a daunting task.
"We have come back from last year when we were beaten at the same stage. Kilmacud were worthy winners, but on the day, we didn't feel we did ourselves justice.
"We know better than anyone that you get nothing at all out of it for losing a semi-final, so I don't think there will be any problem with motivation for this match," he says.
St Gall's come armed with plenty of experience. They lost the 2006 All-Ireland final, ironically to Galway's Salthill-Knocknarra, and they could field eight Antrim County players.
Keane says: "From what we've seen on the video we feel they are a very strong outfit. They probably have the edge in terms of being a physically stronger team than ourselves, but we will be hoping to match them in a football sense."
The manager had no problem admitting that Corofin's progress through the Galway championship was patchy, but they came good when it counted most in the Connacht final against Mayo's Charlestown.
"I always felt there was a big performance in the team, and we showed our true form in that game," says Keane.
The captain, Kieran Comer, had an unusual build-up for the provincial decider, as he spent the week prior to the match playing golf on a sun holiday he had scheduled well in advance of the game against Charlestown.
Keane says: "It was a bit of a risk and we weren't sure how it would go, but thankfully it worked out.
"Kieran had a great game and we won well. If it could guarantee a repeat performance, maybe we should have taken them all to Portugal before this match!"
Corofin have enjoyed a great run of success in the Galway championship, winning 13 senior football titles since 1932 -- 10 of them since 1991.
They have also won five Connacht championships and one All-Ireland title.
The 'Big One' was back in 1998 when Corofin defeated Dublin's Erin's Isle.
Long serving Trevor Burke, who played against Isles that day, agrees that since '98 it has been a case of disappointment at All-Ireland level, none more so than in the loss to Kilmacud Crokes last year.
"We ran Kilmacud very close and a goal in the last six or seven minutes turned the game for them. It was in the melting pot for the last five or 10 minutes and after the game we felt we had left it after us.
"We're hoping we can make up for it this time, but St Gall's are very good opponents. They're a good footballing side and we're expecting a hard challenge from them," he says.
Burke, 38 this year, has 10 winning county medals to his credit, dating back to 1991, and has been part of the panel that reached, and won, the 2009 Connacht final.
Unfortunately he will miss this game, as a tonsils operation was followed by a disc problem with his neck, so he's desperately hoping the Corofin team can make it to the final.
Interesting to note that Corofin have a habit of bringing on teenagers in key matches over the years.
Back in 1998, Kieran Comer was only 16 when he came on as sub against Erin's Isle in the All-Ireland final. Now he's the captain of the side.
In the recent Connacht final, schoolboy Ronan Steede made his third senior appearance for the club and gave a good account of himself, so maybe the policy of trusting the youngsters can pay off tomorrow for Corofin.
Trevor Burke, Kieran Comer, and Aidan Donnellan are the players still active in the panel who link the teams of '98 and 2010.
There are also family connections. Ronan Steede's dad Eddie played on the 1998 All-Ireland team, as did Ollie Burke, father of current player Justin Burke.
Cathal Silke, is a nephew of Ray Silke, who captained Corofin to the '98 win over Erin's Isle and then John O'Mahony's Galway to Sam Maguire success later that year.