A mysterious mauling by the beast from the west

Colm Cooper thought Croke Park would suit Nemo just fine. But there was lead in the boots from the off.

A mysterious mauling by the beast from the west

Son of the beast held off until Sunday. But the beast from the west swept through Croker on Patrick’s Day. And devoured Nemo.

I’ve tried to puzzle out what happened the Cork champions. I saw these guys at close quarters in Páirc Uí Rinn. They were buzzing with energy and I felt Croke Park would suit them just fine. But there was lead in the boots from the off.

Something in the preparation? It’s a stop-start few months. They worked hard all winter, I believe, after Munster was won. Could that have caught up with them? But then we did the same last year. You can’t afford to take any chances with a semi-final looming. But it’s hard to keep peaking at the right time over a long, long campaign.

They looked a nervous team, which is the last thing you associate with Nemo. Was the day, the occasion, too big for some of the younger lads?

Or were Corofin just too athletic? It looked, at times, like Dublin running over one of the lesser lights in Leinster. And Corofin never lifted the boot off Nemo’s throat.

When you play well all year and don’t show up in a final, it leaves an awful sour taste. Larry Kavanagh was very magnanimous afterwards and I heard him express some regret they didn’t make switches quicker, particularly to shut down Michael Farragher. But I looked down at the sideline after 15 minutes and saw himself and Stephen O’Brien trying to get a grip of them. There were fires everywhere and only so many they could put out. Luke Connolly tried very hard, but nobody else won his own battle.

Corofin’s Ian Burke with Micheal Aodh Martin of Nemo Rangers. Pic: INPHO/Gary Carr
Corofin’s Ian Burke with Micheal Aodh Martin of Nemo Rangers. Pic: INPHO/Gary Carr

Everything clicked for Corofin. They dictated the pace and that’s a knack that comes with experience. They have bundles of medals and that shone through. The veterans like Gary Sice and Kieran Fitzgerald were excellent.

But they had homework done too. Jack Horgan and Alan O’Donovan have had great seasons in that Nemo engine room, but they were beaten hands down.

Michael Farragher slipped out as a third midfielder from the start and Bernard Power pegged nearly every kickout down into his pocket in front of the Cusack Stand.

Farragher won most of them and that was their platform. From there, they isolated their forwards and cut loose, with Michael’s brother Martin untouchable inside.

They way they handled themselves was a lesson for any team going into Croke Park. Everyone played with his head up. Everyone was unselfish. The guy in the best position got the ball every time. And their second goal was as good a team goal as I’ve ever seen in Croke Park.

But it summed up Nemo too. Not able to lay a hand on them. Not getting anywhere near close enough to get a tackle in. They lacked that intensity all day.

It’s mysterious, how life drains away from a team. You need leaders who know when to slow things down and also how to speed everyone up with their own efforts. But sometimes it’s impossible.

Galway football is riding the crest of a wave now. A Division One final to come and maybe more, if Corofin’s 1998 All-Ireland win is an omen.

Will some of these players come into Kevin Walsh’s plans? Surely.

Both Farraghers were excellent. I can’t see how they won’t get an opportunity. Dylan Wall at wing-back was superb too. So Walsh has headaches. Good ones, mainly.

Though Corofin’s style certainly differs from Galway’s right now.

Theirs is very much a kicking game, whereas Galway are a team absorbing an awful lot of pressure, inviting you on and hitting on the break with pace.

Maybe the Corofin style won’t fit entirely with what Galway are trying to achieve. Kevin Walsh is the man to figure that out. But if you’re talking raw talent, those Farragher boys certainly have it.

The Corofin way is arguably the more traditional Galway style. More purist. Galway have always been a very pure football county. They always fielded footballing sides, whenever I played them or watched them. They have moved slightly away from those values now, but it’s working for them.

But if it stops working for them, there might be a clamour for the Corofin way. What we saw in Croke Park Saturday certainly works. And it might just provide a plan B for Kevin Walsh. They will need more than one plan come summer.

If Corofin’s veterans guided by example, it didn’t happen for Tomás and I was gutted for him.

The Ó Sés have always been well able for defeat. It’s a family trait, something they undoubtedly got from their uncle. Of course it hurts Tomás, but he rolls with it and often laughed it off. Never dwelt on what went wrong and always looked forward to what’s coming down the track.

But this will sting. An absolute sickener for him. To get to two club All-Ireland finals, lose one by a point and then, when it looked like his hour had come right at the end of his career, a hammering like this. It’ll cut deep.

It’s been an amazing journey for a guy who has given everything for every jersey he played in. He’ll be hugely disappointed, but is the chance gone? What’s coming down the track? Will we see him back again?

That’s the million dollar question now.

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