Saturday 16 December 2017

Eugene McGee: Corofin kicking kings show value of putting boot to ball

Ian Burke, Corofin, in action against Hugh Gill, St Vincent's
Ian Burke, Corofin, in action against Hugh Gill, St Vincent's
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

The north Galway club Corofin, an amalgamation of two half parishes, Corofin and Belclare, provided a classic game of championship football in Tullamore on Saturday.

Classic because they largely dominated the All-Ireland champions St Vincent's from Dublin but, more importantly, they produced a very high level of organisation rarely seen in the All-Ireland or provincial club championship.

In the process they produced an exhibition of the modern game based on defence but, more importantly, given recent trends in the game, they utilised foot-passing brilliantly to often leave their illustrious opponents in a state of total confusion as to what was going on around them.

And it was their kicking skills, particularly in their own half of the field, that left Vincent's players often stranded in no man's land as they seemed unable to get into a routine of tight, old-style man-marking but instead found themselves leaving Corofin with acres of unmarked spaced which they made very good use of.

Amazingly, it was obvious from the moment the ball was thrown in that Corofin were going to be running this particular show. Nowhere was there a sign of the sort of control and composure that one would expect from All-Ireland holders with dozens of club wins in Dublin in recent years.

Often it is the country club that falls apart when confronted with Dublin champions but not this time. There was a demeanour, a cut about the Galway lads, that stated: "We are afraid of nobody."

Homework

Big names usually decide the big club championship games and most people expected Vincent's Tomas Quinn and Diarmuid Connolly, regularly touted as the best all-round footballer in Ireland, to lead the charge for their team.

Instead Quinn got no score from play while Connolly only managed two points from play and that underlined the homework Corofin had done in finding two of their men to largely blot out these two stars.

In their long and distinguished history, Vincent's have made a trademark of capitalising on one or two acts of good fortune in a big game and it looked as if that was going to happen again in Tullamore in the 22nd minute when a Corofin penalty struck the crossbar and rebounded and immediately Vincent's got a penalty which Quinn expertly dispatched to the net.

That put the Dublin team ahead against the run of play and usually that would have lit their fire and spurred them on to success. But Corofin were mentally fearless in this game and after about five minutes Michael Farragher had scored a goal and man of the match Michael Lundy a point so they led at the break by 1-8 to 1-6.

Ah, but they won't keep going like that in the second half, said the knowing ones in O'Connor Park. Just watch out for Connolly and Ger Brennan when they game is up for grabs in the second half.

Well, we did watch but there was very little to see that caused any great concern to Corofin. Brennan was kept deep in defence, thereby denying him his trademark upfield runs as he does for Dublin. And while Connolly got more ball after the break, he was always shut out from doing anything dramatic by vigilant Corofin defenders.

As stated, the composure of the Galway lads against more famous opponents and the holder of the title was tremendous and showed that long and detailed mental preparation had been done coupled with incredible discipline on the part of the players.

Vincent's did rally in the final quarter from being five points down to snatch three points in six minutes but in reality that was a merely a dying kick because they failed to score in then final 17 minutes and Corofin went on to seal the deal with three unanswered points for a very decisive victory that left their opponents shattered.

The Corofin full-forward line of Martin Farragher, Lundy and Ian Burke scored an astonishing 1-10 from play, something that must have made former Vincent's full-back lines turn in their graves!

The efficient defensive Corofin performance was a treat to watch. Sure, they had some extra players at the back and handpassed quite a bit but they usually rounded off the clearance with a long foot-pass to the wings, which led to attacks. They were lean and mean in attack too because their second wide of the game did not arrive till the 37th minute.

And it was the high-quality foot-passing and kicking for scores by Corofin that brought about the downfall of the All-Ireland champions. Surely a good omen for the Galway county team if they are prepared to learn from it.

Corofin will be confident facing the final on St Patrick's Day and their performance on Saturday indicates they will not be too cocky after beating the champions.

Leitrim icon Josie recalled with pride

One does not have to be from a famous county to be regarded as a football icon and the passing of former Leitrim great Josie Murray proves the point.

Josie, from the St Mary's club, sprung to fame when he played centre-field in opposition to the great Lar Foley in the 1956 All-Ireland minor final, which Dublin won.

He had a long and distinguished career with Leitrim seniors but had the misfortune to play and lose in five Connacht finals, all against Galway, between 1957 and 1963.

He played for Connacht on several occasions too but again without success.

Josie's interest in the GAA in Leitrim was a lifelong obsession and he was a pivotal figure in the various fundraising projects that are so crucial to the very existence of that county in modern times and was a key member of the Leitrim Supporters Club in Dublin.

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