No-one beyond Killarney seems to have been happier than Martin Farragher with the confirmation that Dr Croke’s midfielder Johnny Buckley was free to play in Sunday’s All-Ireland club football final. It’s not as if Buckley’s reprieve helps Farragher or Corofin in their quest to claim a third title in five years, but the Galway man knows all too well how it feels to be shown a harsh, straight red card in a national semi-final.
The 24-year-old was dismissed by referee, Derek O’Mahony, in the opening minute of Corofin’s All-Ireland semi-final against Moorefield, of Kildare, last season, but was eventually cleared to play by the Central Hearings Committee.
Buckley suffered the same unwanted fate in Dr Croke’s semi-final defeat of Mullinalaghta last month, when shown to the line by referee, Sean Hurson. Like Farragher’s, the punishment was viewed by many as harsh and he, too, won his appeal.
“It would have been a disaster if I didn’t get to play in that final,” said Farragher. “I know how Johnny Buckley must have been feeling this year and I’m delighted that he’s getting the chance to play, as well. I was just delighted to be playing on St Patrick’s Day last year.”
Farragher was shocked when O’Mahony produced the card, and while there was always a sense that he would ultimately be cleared, he was made to wait for confirmation of his availability, when the ‘Beast from the East’ struck and brought the country to a halt. Still, all’s well that ended well. Farragher and Corofin went onto claim a second title in three years, at the expense of Nemo Rangers, with one of the best club performances witnessed at Croke Park.
Farragher hit six points in the win and his brother, Michael, 1-1, including that team goal for the ages. It was Martin who struck the net when Gweedore were seen off in this year’s semi-final. As with his brother’s goal in 2018, it was a beautifully crafted, collective effort, with Gary Sice and Ian Burke establishing the platform from which Farragher finished.
It proved a crucial moment in a game that ended with just four points between the sides.
“Yes, it was a difficult game,” he said. “They were very hard and physical at the start of the game and showed us they were there and serious about getting to Croke Park. It was a great experience and learning curve for us, coming into this final.”
The plot lines provided by both Gweedore and Mullinalaghta were two of the most enjoyable in the GAA in recent years, but their defeats have, at least, made for a final between two genuine heavyweights of the club game. Should Corofin retain their title this weekend, and make it three in five years, it would amount to the most sustained spell of dominance since Crossmaglen claimed a third title inside four seasons, back in 2000. For Croke’s, success would be a second in three attempts.
“At the moment, we’re just taking it game by game,” said Farragher. “We’re not looking into the history. We can look back at that when our careers are done. At the moment, it’s just 60 minutes on St Patrick’s Day and that’s it.”