Sunday 11 December 2016

Sice seizing the day as Corofin and Brigid's renew epic rivalry

Michael Verney

Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30

Corofin's Gary Sice ahead of the AIB GAA Connacht Senior Football Club Championship Final on Sunday, 27th November. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Corofin's Gary Sice ahead of the AIB GAA Connacht Senior Football Club Championship Final on Sunday, 27th November. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It may be ten years ago but Gary Sice can still vividly remember the day St Brigid's broke his heart, along with all of Corofin.

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Leading their Roscommon rivals by two points deep into injury time, and with one hand on the Connacht SFC club title, Karol Mannion produced his very own Roy of the Rovers moment with a spectacular match-winning goal.

Sice and Mannion were regularly renewing rivalry throughout their club and county careers, as they will be again in this Sunday's decider, and they've become good friends off the pitch.

But the manner of the defeat still irks the Galway attacker and when they reacquainted on Monday, he wasn't shy to tell him. While Mannion was always capable of the extraordinary, this took the biscuit.

"I was only talking to him this morning about it. I said, 'Look, no goalkeeper, 15 balls, I'll put a patch in the goal, hit the patch'. And he admitted in fairness to him that, no way, he'd do it," Sice (right) jokes.

"I'm still convinced he wasn't going for that, I think he let rip and was hopeful that it lands somewhere and knocks down a break or something. There's no way, he was 32 or 33 yards out, Jesus Christ, you wouldn't try it in a schools game.

"It was a ridiculous effort but that's Karol Mannion because all through his Roscommon career he was able to pull out something different. He has that skill set, he has that know-how, he's a good baller, a really good footballer."

An epic struggle was decided in the most dramatic manner but a valuable lesson was learned and Corofin would never be so naive again. "We should have taken his head off. I was about this far (points right beside his face) away from his jaw," Sice remarks.

"Another second and he was getting it. I had an opportunity to clip him on the halfway line and one of our midfielders had the opportunity to clip him, take his ankles from under him. He just managed to skip out of tackle but it made us stronger as a group and we learned a lot from it."

The controversy was ramped up five years later when referee Liam Devanney was confronted by angry Corofin supporters and had to be escorted away when tension boiled over after Mike Farragher's goal was ruled as a square ball.

Sice doesn't see the side's familiarity having any bearing on this game, however, with an overhaul of personnel as well as a change in fortunes with both sides securing All-Ireland honours on St Patrick's Day in recent years.

Stephen Rochford's "man management" helped kick the small Galway village on the N17 all the way to the Andy Merrigan Cup and while Sice hopes similar success doesn't follow for Mayo in his second term after parting ways, more pressing issues are at hand.

Michael Lundy's return has bolstered new boss Kevin O'Brien's options and the four-in-a-row Galway winners are out for provincial honours with Sice hoping to repeat the "pure joy" of scaling the Hogan Stand steps.

"To stand in Croke Park and for a 30-second window to look around you and realise, 'Jesus, I'm after winning an All-Ireland with my club in Croke Park', it was just epic, there's no other word for it," he says.

Great teams win multiple All-Ireland titles but with the 2013 winners coming down the tracks, their eyes won't be taken off the prize with their 32-year-old talisman hoping to seize the day.

"It would be a dream, it would be ideal but you can't do it when you're up against opposition like Brigid's. You cannot dream for a second, because when you do Senan Kilbride will pop up and get a goal or Karol Mannion will pop up and get a goal or the next thing you're six minutes from the end, you're two points up and someone gets a sickener of a goal. We're too long in the tooth for that," he says.

"Legacies are hard things to talk about when you're living it. It's grand to sit down and have a cup of coffee in two years' time and you're retired. At the moment legacy is not a concern, it's the here and now.

With the interview in full swing Mannion enters and exits before exchanging pleasantries. "I'll see you Sunday," Mannion offers, to which Sice counters: "I'll see you Sunday Karol, have a good one, sleep well."

Don't expect the same on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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