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‘If those games were in Leitrim, people would be talking about how poor the football was’ – Dom Corrigan

Ballinamore boss believes football is on up in his county, especially with the arrival of Andy Moran as manager

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Ballinamore manager Dom Corrigan. Photo: Sportsfile

Ballinamore manager Dom Corrigan. Photo: Sportsfile

Ballinamore manager Dom Corrigan. Photo: Sportsfile

“Don’t let anyone tell you Leitrim footballers are not good enough,” asserts Dom Corrigan, a man who has worn many, many different coaching hats over the past 20 years or so and, as such, is certified to make such an appraisal.

I’ve looked at some of the games on TG4. I’ve looked at some of the games from Dublin and some other counties, where you couldn’t look (as) the quality was so bad.

“If those games were in Leitrim, people would be talking about how poor the football was.”

Listen closely enough and you might hear a faint, unfamiliar buzz of excitement around Leitrim football. It’s timely.

Recent, very obvious developments have gone some way to generating a pulse where none had been apparent.

The appointment of a senior football manager can often be an arduous, frustrating process. But Leitrim officials can be happy, bordering on smug, with their work, both with the means and the end.

Leitrim cast a wide net, repeatedly consulted with the current squad. They even brought in former Dublin county chairman Seán Shanley – a man with Leitrim roots – to chair the process.

The one request that repeatedly came back from the squad was simple: no journeymen.

After a couple of bleak seasons, the players wanted something new. Something different. Something fresh.

Granted, he hasn’t actually started yet, but the strong suspicion is that Andy Moran ticks all these boxes and a fair few more besides.

“He’s going to bring that Mayo template of hard work, intensity, total commitment to the cause,” predicts Corrigan, himself a former inter-county manager with Fermanagh and Sligo.

“My most recent clubs were in Monaghan and Tyrone. And I can tell you, the quality of footballer that is in Leitrim is no different.”

“I’ve seen footballers here the last three years and there’s no difference between them and footballers anywhere else.”

Tomorrow’s county final, against earlier expectations, even has a tingle of excitement about it.

For a start, it’s live on TG4 (3.45), with Corrigan’s Ballinamore facing Mohill in Carrick-On-Shannon.

Mohill, defending champions, tore everyone to shreds in the league and the subsequent group stage of the championship and are seeking back-to-back titles for the first time in their history.

Ballinamore, meanwhile, are by some distance Leitrim’s most successful club, but they hadn’t so much as a county final appearance in 21 years until 2019, Corrigan’s first term in charge. Their last senior title came in 1990.

“When you’re at the top of the roll of honour in your county, which Ballinamore are, there’s a proud history and tradition there,” Corrigan notes.

“With that comes expectation. That expectation is certainly there, the expectation that Ballinamore should be getting to finals and winning finals.

“But I think that level of expectation is good because everybody weighs in behind the senior team.

“Everyone wants to end this long, barren period without a senior title.

“Yes, there’s expectation there. But I would view that as a positive. We will be doing everything in our power to meet that level of expectation.”

Two years ago, Corrigan recalls now, the occasion itself was an issue for his team. In that fnal, they lost by a single point – 0-16 to 0-15 – to Glencar/Manorhamilton. Worse, they nursed a sense of bitter injustice through the winter.

Just before half-time, Ballinamore centre-back Donal Feely was sent off on a straight red card, a decision Corrigan felt, with immediate certainty, was a “disgrace”. Afterwards, to reiterate his point, he let fly at the match officials.

“The officials got that badly wrong,” he fumed, “and they will have to live with that on their conscience.”

Corrigan’s not sure now whether it made matters better or worse, but the following Friday, Feely had his red card rescinded.

“I think it should be an advantage to us, even though we lost it,” he reckons ahead of another final with the same bunch of players bar Feely, who has since emigrated to Canada.

“It was the club’s first final in 20 years. There was a bit of novelty about it. It maybe wasn’t as easy to get lads focused.

“I’d always be a firm believer that you learn from defeat and turning negative experiences into positives. Hopefully, on Sunday, the pain of two years ago will drive them to greater levels.”

The strong likelihood is that it will have to.

Mohill, already the league champions, bulldozed through the group stages and quarter-final with an average winning margin of 15 points.

The 2021 Leitrim SFC was already trending towards a routine title for them until two Sundays back.

First, Ballinamore beat St Mary’s – finalists just last year – by 3-15 to 0-9 before Mohill endured a scrap against a Leitrim Gaels side making their first senior semi-final appearance. All bets are off.

Corrigan is quick to anoint Mohill “red-hot favourites” but predicts tomorrow’s game will do justice to the standard of football he is adamant exists in Leitrim and is only waiting now to be harnessed.

“It’s nice that the county final is being showcased on Sunday,” Corrigan adds. “People will see that both teams, Mohill and Ballinamore, can play football like players from any county in Ireland.”

Mohill v Ballinamore (Leitrim SFC final), tomorrow, TG4, 3.45


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