Such are the many special moments Daithí Casey took from two years ago, it should come as no surprise that he wants a second spin on the wheel. Casey was full-forward for Dr Crokes on St Patrick’s Day in March of 2017, kicking three points (two frees) as the Killarney club ended a 25-year wait for a second All-Ireland club football crown.
Describing that Friday afternoon two years ago as the proudest of his football career, Casey, now at midfield for Pat O’Shea’s side, wants to once again to enjoy the view from club football’s highest peak.
“All-Ireland club final day is the biggest day in the club calendar and there is something so special about winning with your club. Johnny [Buckley] is one of my best friends and he was captain in 2017. I’ve been friends with Fionn Fitzgerald since I was four. They are special things,” said Casey, of what that 2017 success meant to him.
“I didn’t win much underage so I’ve been lucky at senior level that we’ve done well. Winning in Croke Park is what it is all about. And the fact that Amy [O’Connor] was involved, God rest her, was unreal. That was a very special day for everyone in the club and a great day, personally. My aunt came home from America for the game. It was nice to have them little moments.”
Because of such, he wants to again stand on the steps of the Hogan Stand looking across at a Crokes teammate lift the Andy Merrigan Cup. Equally, he does not want to be below on the pitch looking up at a Corofin footballer collect the silverware from GAA president John Horan.
“ was such a great experience that you want to go through it again. The way I look at it is: Do you want your season to finish as it did in 2017, beating Slaughtneil, delighted with life, and following that was one of the best weeks ever or do you want it to be like Nemo (in their Munster final defeat later that year) where we were depressed coming home on the bus, quiet, no craic at all, and basically licking our wounds for Christmas? We’ve had enough tough losses. I’d rather have the good times.”
A Crokes-Corofin All-Ireland final had been touted since last winter but Casey believes those on the outside took for granted what is involved in forging a path to the St Patrick’s Day decider.
“Favourites don’t always get through to the final, especially for the All-Ireland club series because of that February semi-final. There is no momentum going into that game, whereas you have momentum when going through your provincial championship. We had momentum when going through Munster, as did Corofin in Connacht. But the February game throws a spanner in that. Other years, when we were going well in 2011, ‘12 and‘13, we would have fancied ourselves to get to the final, but our momentum broke and we lost those three games. Crokes-Corofin might have been touted, but it has been a long time in getting here.”
Despite their respective provincial dominance over the last decade — Corofin were crowned Connacht champions six times since 2008, Crokes emerged from Munster on five occasions during this period — this is only their second meeting in recent times. Crokes took a 2-11 to 0-8 victory in their All-Ireland semi-final two years ago, a performance they will need to replicate on Sunday if they’re to give themselves a chance of delivering the club’s third All-Ireland title.
“We performed well that day. It was our best February game,” Casey continues. “We were very hungry. I think we surprised Corofin with how hungry we were. The biggest thing was everyone played on the day, everyone put their hand up, everyone performed. In previous semi-finals, four or five fellas didn’t perform to the required level, but here, everyone performed. Croke Park is where you want to play. We like playing there, we like playing in big stadiums — Fitzgerald Stadium, Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Croke Park is made for footballers, that is what we like to think we are. Croke Park is made for good football and hopefully, you’ll see that from us.”