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champs keep their focus

HISTORY, surely, will show one of the great Gaelic games managerial feats to be the retention of form for a team without a match from mid-December, through Christmas, New Year, all of January and half of February.

This is what therespective All-Ireland club semi-finalists are hoping to achieve.

Uniquely amongst the last four, Tommy Conroy has done it before.

He did it - successfully too - just last year.

"I think we've just tried to keep it along the same lines of last year," he told the Herald in the preamble to today's semi-final showdown with Corofin.

"We gave the guys a bit of a break over the Christmas period and then got back in early January.

"It's been long. It's not easy. Just trying to keep them all right and ticking over and thankfully they are now.

"We just try and prepare well.

"You can tell by looking at fellas whether they're getting tired or not. Listen, the work is done now. The work is all done."

Any fear a loss of momentum?


"It can happen," Conroy admits.

"The way it's staggered, you go through Dublin and it's fantastic to win Dublin and that sort of closes off one end of it.

"But then the door is open again and you're off into Leinster and there's something to go for there again.

"Then when you win Leinster, there's another mountain to climb. So it's not easy to keep raising the bar and keep refocusing.

"But I think they're a decent group themselves."

"They do tend to set the standards themselves. They'd be at each other to … they have a good idea, they have a good feel for it.

"When you get two weeks out, you can tell they're right for it."

Of Corofin, Conroy insists - and with plenty of back-up evidence: "I think they're as good as anything we've played over the last couple of years.

"There's a pal of mine over in the west and he had said it to me. We were just talking football and he said it to me - I couldn't believe it actually - he said it so early in the year that Corofin would be the team to beat.

"I watched them in the Connacht final. Genuinely, they're an out-and-out footballing side.


"They're very good at the back. They're all comfortable on the ball. They have two very good midfielders in (Ronan) Steede and (Daithí) Burke.

"Particularly Steede. For a big man, he's very good on the ball. He's a very good kick passer. And then their half-forward line. I don't think you'll see better in the country with (Gary) Sice, (Michael) Lundy and (Michael) Farragher.

He adds: "Look, we'll have to be at our best. There's no doubt about it. They were brilliant against Ballintubber.

"You're really just hoping that everything is right. I know that Corofin played Clare and pushed Clare very close and then Clare go out and hammer Wexford.

"So they have to be good.

"Any club side that comes up against a county side," Conroy concludes, "it shows that they have to be good and they have to be respected."