AIB CONNACHT SFC CLUB FINAL:
Ballintubber (Mayo) v Corofin (Galway)
Michael Farragher has packed a huge amount into his 24 years.
And tomorrow the GMIT engineering student bids for another accolade as he captains Corofin from centre-forward in their quest for a Connacht club title against Mayo’s Ballintubber at McHale Park.
A past pupil of St Jarlath’s College in Tuam, Michael headed to Australia in 2011 after winning an All-Ireland U21 medal under Alan Mulholland’s guidance along with Corofin team-mate, Ronan Steede, to try out with Grovedale Tigers, a feeder club to AFL giants, Geelong. While he enjoyed that entire experience, he badly missed home and was keen to return home to his first love. Gaelic football with Corofin.
Twelve months down under, and he was back. With no regrets.
“Australia was a great experience. However, I really missed the craic and camaraderie of my club, friends, and my family and I was delighted to come home in 2012 to play against Tuam Stars in the county semi-final, and throw in my lot with Alan Mulholland and the Galway seniors for the rest of the season.”
The immediate delight of returning home was diluted quickly by rapid defeats at both club and county level.
However, Farragher decided after those disappointments to give his full commitment to winning a few county titles with his club and making the best of where he was at.
He then embarked on a strength and conditioning programme to build on the process he began in Australia. The fact that he was prepared to try to max out on that area of his preparation came as no surprise to anyone in the local community, as his father Tommy, a member of Corofin AC has won over 60 All-Ireland titles for Hammer Throwing, Shot Putt, Javelin and Sheaf throwing. And now Tommy is still going strong in the over 65 category.
Michael smiles when his dad is mentioned: “Yeah, Dad is in incredible shape and he is an inspiration to us all as to how he keeps in such fantastic shape and works so hard at his sport. Dad is a superb trainer and sets a really good example about what it takes to reach the top. The way club football has gone over the past few years if you are not really looking after yourself, and what you eat and doing a good strength and conditioning programme you won’t be able to compete with the top clubs and players.”
He continued: “If you look at the quality of our opposition tomorrow – it proves that point. Cillian O’ Connor, Alan Dillon, Jason Gibbons and Diarmuid O’ Connor are really top class players. Those guys are in incredible shape after the past few years of intensive work with Mayo. And when you are coming up against players of that quality, you have to be able to compete. We were beaten by Castlebar Mitchels last year in Tuam and we have learnt a lot from that defeat.
Farragher is not looking past tomorrow and Ballintubber. However for 2015 he would love to get back into the county set-up and see where it takes him.
“I would be delighted to get back onto the Galway panel once our club campaign is over. I was involved with the All-Ireland U21 success a few years ago and a lot of those lads are established on the senior team now. I will give it a real go if I am called in. Kevin Walsh is a very experienced manager, so hopefully Galway will be much closer to winning a Connacht title next season than we have been for the past few years. However that is not a priority right now, and I am only focussing on the here and now. Ballintubber are a top class side and will be our biggest test all year. They have already beaten the runners-up in the 2014 All-Ireland final (Castlebar), and they were very impressive in defeating St. Brigid’s who were the 2013 champions. When we played then in the Connacht championship in 2011, we only beat them by a point (1-11 to 2-7) so we appreciate we have a tough task tomorrow, especially in McHale Park”.
While Farragher is aware of the challenge, he feels Corofin are in a good place to try and overcome that challenge. “There is a huge hunger in our squad to try and win a Connacht title. Our last one was five years ago (2009), and we really want to finish off the year with another top performance. Our experienced guys like Kieran Fitzgerald, Gary Sice, Alan Burke and Kieran McGrath would love to try and get on a run outside of the province. We have been been beaten in too many Connacht championship games over the past few years and the older lads have also lost two All-Ireland semi-finals too, so tomorrow is an opportunity to try and get back to winning ways at this level.”
Farragher’s uncle, Tommy Greaney, was wing-back on the Corofin team that won the All-Ireland in 1998 — a feat this side would love to emulate.
“Look every young club player, whether they are from Corofin or Ballintubber or Austin Stacks or Omagh dreams of playing with their club in big games. However making that dream a reality is the difficult part. Fitzie (Kieran Fitzgerald) has been playing senior club since 2000 and he has about ten county medals, but he has only two Connacht club medals. Whichever team wins tomorrow will deserve to do so, and be worthy champions. We always take things one game at a time, and we have huge respect for Ballintubber, and I assume that is reciprocated. It has the makings of a fantastic contest.”
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