There’s no side-stepping the issue anymore. No more games left to deflect the conversation. As Johnny Buckley put it on his way back into the Crokes dressing-room on Sunday, now they can “officially” begin talking about an All-Ireland club semi-final.
They tell us there has been no mention of it all year. The failed semi-final attempts of 2012, ’13 and ’14 were in the past and the recapturing of Kerry and Munster titles was in no way motivated by a collective desire to earn a shot at redemption next February. The approach has been to take it one game at a time, or so went the party line after each victory.
Behind closed doors, you get a sense the narrative ran differently.
Anyway, Munster silverware is back on Lewis Road and so the focus is very definitely on Corofin and safely negotiating a hurdle that has a tendency to leave them flat on their face. Fionn Fitzgerald’s words, those.
Selector Harry O’Neill says the approach on this occasion would be to pull the “good, bad and ugly” from their recent All-Ireland semi-final experiences. Fitzgerald was adamant that old mistakes would not be repeated, even if they’ll enter said fixture off the back of Sunday’s 18-point annihilation of The Nire.
“Maybe, we potentially looked a little far ahead before,” the Crokes corner-back admitted.
“We took it game by game this year. Our performances have been testament to that. A couple of years ago, it hit us hard losing a couple of semi-finals in-a-row. It is a good testament to get back to where we are, but there is still a lot of work to do. We’ve fallen flat on our face a few times here before.”
Added Daithí Casey: “We know from past experiences that it is not easy going from December to February. We’ll have to really knuckle down over Christmas.”
Fitzgerald was fulsome is his praise of Sunday’s hat-trick hero. Mind you, the compliments paid had little to do with the three first-half goals Casey supplied.
“He is our vice-captain and has been driving it from behind when a lot of us were away for the year. A lot of the credit is due to the boys who have been slogging away for the last 10 months when other fellas have been away with Kerry. I think they deserve credit. Daithí was flying in the first-half.”
Casey’s half-forward colleague Johnny Buckley is relishing the challenge Corofin will pose. The 2014 All-Ireland club champions made similar light work of their provincial final opponents on Sunday. The Crokes captain is confident of a “football-focused” game.
“I know they are an outstanding team,” he said of their All-Ireland semi-final opponents. “There’ll be plenty of planning to see can we get one over on them.
“We’ll definitely learn from our mistakes [from past semi-finals]. We’ll put a lot of effort in and it is all about peaking for the first week in February. We’ve been out now for nine weeks in a row so I know fellas will take a break for the next couple of weeks.
“We’ll get a block of strength work in and get back running then in January. We’ve a bit of time to be doing all that planning.”
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