Thursday 23 November 2017

Corofin circle closes as kids repeat wins of fathers

Ian Burke, right, in action for Corofin against Brian Collins, Tir Chonaill Gaels
Ian Burke, right, in action for Corofin against Brian Collins, Tir Chonaill Gaels
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ASK Ollie Burke what is his standout memory of winning that All-Ireland club title with Corofin 17 years ago and he doesn't hesitate.

He immediately singles out the euphoria of spotting his parents, and his wife Ann and children Iona and Justin, in the Hogan Stand and rushing to share the joy with them.

Ian wasn't there because he was too young and Gavin (15) hadn't even arrived back then but today, in Tullamore, it will be Ollie and Ann who are the proud parents watching on as two of their boys pit themselves against Dublin giants St Vincent's in the AIB All-Ireland club football semi-final.

Ian (21) is one of the latest diamonds off the Corofin conveyor-belt and Justin (24) should also get to play a part after recovering from medial ligament injury.

Their small Galway village embodies this competition's 'club is family' catchphrase.

Ollie (corner-back) and his brother Gerry (midfield) played vital roles when Corofin famously beat Erins Isle to become the first Connacht side to win the title.

Today Gerry's son Daithi, also a county senior hurling star, lines out at midfield and beside him is Ronan Steede, whose dad Eddie was full-forward in 1998.

In the backs are Cathal and Liam Silke. Their dad Brian is a current Galway senior selector and their uncle Ray was centre-back and captain in 1998. Eddie Steede is also Gary Sice's uncle and the Farraghers are nephews of former wing-back Thomas Greaney.

"It's all in the breeding," quips Ollie with a chuckle.

Corofin famously beat a star-studded Dungiven team (including Joe Brolly and the McKeevers) at the point where their sons and nephews are now poised.

Today's team, like themselves, benefited from lots of underage success with Galway but he baulks at their training regimes and monastic lifestyle.

In 1998, he was 38. Gerry was 39 yet won man of the match in the All-Ireland final; unimaginable now that turning 30 puts you over the hill.

Ollie recalls a family wedding in Limerick, the day before a county final. He took it handy - "three pints at the most" - and they left at 1am. Next day he vied with Eddie Steede for man of the match.


Corofin's historic breakthrough, he reckons, was because they had a full team of players able to pass right and left and understood how to mark, and read the game when they weren't on the ball.

"Football was 15 positions then, you marked your man and did your job but now all they want is runners and handpasses, it's like watching a game of rugby sometimes," he muses.

Victory today would bring a lot of Corofin families just one step away from full circle in the gift that keeps on giving.

Ollie drives an oil lorry for Texaco, mostly around Connacht, and whenever he's asked where he's from talk turns to football.

"It's amazing," he marvels. "Maybe it's because we were the first Connacht team to win it.

"I remember going up to watch (Roscommon's) Clann na Gael in so many finals and they never won one. I never dreamt then that I'd get a chance to play in one myself, never mind win it."

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