Corofin's spying mission highlights Slaughtneil threat
Corofin players and management were quickly brought back to earth after Saturday's joy at defeating the reigning champions St Vincent's in the AIB All-Ireland Club football semi-final.
All it took was a trip to Portlaoise on Sunday by manager Stephen Rochford and his selectors Trevor Burke, Kevin O'Brien and Ger Keane to view the other semi-finalists, Austin Stacks of Kerry and Derry's Slaughtneil.
Stacks were the slight favourites going into the match, but the Kerry side, bidding for a return to the All-Ireland stage after an absence of 38 years, lost to the Ulster champions by a point - 1-14 to 2-10.
Burke, who played on the last - and only - Corofin side to win the All-Ireland title in 1998, was impressed.
"We were a bit excited on Saturday but we were brought back down to earth on Sunday when we went to Portlaoise," he said.
"We couldn't miss that opportunity to check out the opposition before an All-Ireland.
"Slaughtneil looked very impressive. They are a very good outfit."
Given their own challenge in facing up to St Vincent's, Corofin paid little attention to the participants in the second semi-final, but once they had carved out a 1-14 to 1-9 victory at Tullamore, all eyes turned to the Stacks v Slaughtneil game.
"What impressed the most was the heart that Slaughtneil showed. They had great heart and belief," said Burke.
"Mickey Moran, their manager, has done an excellent job, and their fitness was phenomenal. Even in the last few minutes they were going up and down the pitch as if it was the first few minutes.
"They showed great ability throughout the whole team. There didn't seem to be any weak links."
Corofin looked a cohesive, solid and mentally strong outfit against St Vincent's, so the stage is set for a terrific contest in the final on St Patrick's Day.
"Yes," agreed Burke. "These are very similar teams. We have two running teams, two strong midfields, good forwards, so it's going to be an intriguing battle in the final on the big open pitch in Croke Park."
Slaughtneil manager Moran is hugely experienced in preparing teams for big games, but Corofin have plenty of expertise in that area.
Rochford won an All-Ireland club title with Crossmolina, and his selectors know that scene well.
Burke played with Corofin in their '98 triumph, O'Brien was a sub on that team, and Keane was a selector.
Burke (41) holds the Galway record for winning county football championship medals. He has 11 in his collection, surpassing the great Sean Purcell by one, and has also won five Connacht titles with Corofin, as well as that precious All-Ireland club championship.
Burke also won two All Ireland Masters championships with Galway, the most recent being last November when the Tribesmen defeated Mayo in the final.
His clubmate Aidan Donnellan, won 10 Galway championships, and one in Limerick, but Burke just pips him in terms of Galway medals.
On St Patricks Day, Burke will most likely be the 'eye in the stand' for Corofin, but there's plenty of work to be done before the final.
"We'll get back to normality and have a look at the Vincent's match this week, and analyse and work on things that we feel we could improve on," he said.
"Training will be hard for the next few weeks, but it's not going to be crazy stuff. You're going to have to keep lads fresh at the same time."