John Divilly: Anatomy of a match-winning, magical moment

John Divilly: Anatomy of a match-winning, magical moment
Corofin's Kieran Fitzgerald and Kieran Histon of Nemo Rangers. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

What a pity the game in Ennis on Saturday wasn’t delayed by 15 minutes.

At 1.25pm, as I made my hurried way through the turnstiles and onto the sparsely populated embankment behind the Corofin goal, there were still two heavily populated lines of punters queuing outside Cusack Park topurchase match tickets.

Ennis is a great town but a tight spot to find parking. I had a job convincing the Aldi car-park attendant that I was indeed intending to buy some groceries.

After a few minutes of explaining, I escaped his clutches and bolted towards the shop via the stadium. The efforts we endure to watch a game of football!

Which is why I have sympathy for all those who missed the first few moments of this highly-anticipated game.Corofin were on a mission. To put this notion that Nemo in 2020 were a better-drilled and better-equipped team to take them down. Three kicks of a ball inside 60 seconds dismissed that theory.

Corofin players are intelligent but crucially they also possess ‘game-intelligence’. Freeze the moment when Gary Sice receives the ball. He’s 50m from the Nemo goal. A quick glance and he can see that Martin Farragher and Michael Lundy are the closest players to the Nemo goal.

Both are on the move, in the same direction, away from the D and towards the right corner. To his immediate left he has his center-forward, Mike Farragher moving towards him and luring defenders with him. To his peripheral left he knows that his remaining two forward colleagues, Jason Leonard and Ian Burke, are staying wide and away from the ‘D’. What will Gary Sice do?

Option A: Sice to carry the ball at pace and possibly win a free or lose the ball in contact.

Option B: Kick the ball down the throat of full-forward Martin Farragher where if he wins possession, he will have the retreating Nemo centre-back to double mark him.

Option C: Fist pass the ball to his corner forward Michael Lundy who’s moving towards the side-line and who’ll probably start a recycle move.

Option D: Kick a long diagonal ball into Ian Burke who’ll no doubt win it but Nemo will be expecting this.

Option E: Pop a little hand pass to centre-forward Mike Farragher, who, with his back to the goal, will retain possession and find another to start an attack. So many attacking options for Gary Sice and that’s not even taking an attacking midfielder or half-back into consideration.

What was the difference between the Nemo and Corofin players make attacking runs Saturday? The Nemo players made sporadic runs in the hope of receiving the ball and if they didn’t think they would receive the ball they stopped. The Corofin players made the runs consistently, not in the hope of always receiving the ball, but satisfied in the knowledge of creating space for their colleagues and the player in the best position.

The Nemo defence was surely expecting to be pulled in several directions and away from the scoring zone. Good forwards will lure defenders away from the goal in order to create space for each other. Nemo got such a trimming in 2018 from this same Corofin team you would have expected them to lock down the middle channels and hit every yellow and green jersey that moved with ferocious physicality.

The Nemo defenders were close to the Corofin forwards but not touch tight and they certainly were reactive rather than proactive. When I say ‘proactive’, I mean spotting where the danger was about to unfold and getting bodies into the thick of the action.

There is no point in a defender staying touch-tight to a forward on the side-line when the action is unfolding close to his goal. Spot the danger and defend it.

Nemo had to engineer claustrophobic conditions in their defence. It never happened and the Nemo players looked surprisingly uninspired and void of real aggression in the tackle, which was in complete contrast to Corofin.

Corofin bossed the Trabeg men all over the pitch. Once again, goalkeeper Bernie Power provided the quality restarts and his kicking from open play set up numerous attacks which allowed the quartet of Kieran Molloy, Ronan Steede, Mike Farragher and Daithi Burke to run the show.

Molloy and Burke provided the muscle and penetrating runs to open up the channels in the Nemo defence whereas Steede and Farragher showcased their undoubted footballing skills once again.

There are question marks in some quarters about the pace of both players in terms of playing inter-county for Galway. Their ability to dictate a game, however, will infuse Galway supporters with hope that they can make a successful transition to inter-county.

For now, you can’t grow tired of watching Ronan Steede and Corofin weaving intricate patterns of attacking play but they’ll be concerned with the quality of their finishing yesterday.

Kilcoo, unlike Nemo, will create claustrophobic conditions and hit extremely hard so Corofin will need to be extremely clinical in a fortnight and will need their free-takers to have their radar switched on.

When Corofin’s radar is on, you get match-winning moments and sometimes they happen inside 30 seconds before supporters have even reached their seats — or before the opposition have taken their gumshields out of their socks. What option did Gary Sice eventually decide on in that millisecond that he had to make a decision?

Like most Corofin players, he took the best one. Quality kick pass into Martin Farragher who returned the favour to his captain Michael Lundy who duly obliged with a tonic goal which awoke the 2018 demons for Nemo all over again.

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