Two of the best and most consistent club sides in Connacht, went toe to toe in Tuam Stadium yesterday. Corofin produced the best and stylish football, yet they once again had to go extra-time to finish the job. Why do they make it hard on themselves, asks John Divilly.
That may sound tough on the Galway champions. I’m not. Hundreds of neutral Galway supporters stood on the terraces with me yesterday. Nobody says it out loudly, but secretly, we all have huge admiration for the way Corofin play football. At the start of every club championship in Galway, most teams have aspirations and desires of making the quarter-finals. In Corofin, they have aspirations of at least winning the Shane McGettigan Cup. No Corofin player will ever publicly state this. As with the Dublin footballers, they are not an arrogant bunch of guys. But you could say they play their football in a very arrogant way, because they have so much self-belief in themselves and their team.
In every line of the field yesterday, at least two Corofin players won their battles. Dylan Wall and Kieran Molloy won their duels in the half back line while behind them Liam Silke and Conor Cunningham cleaned up. Gary Sice and Jason Leonard won the half forwards battle and inside Colin Brady and the ‘Untouchable’ Ian Burke won theirs.
It was no surprise to see, in the match programme, that Ian Burke’s favourite player was Padraic Joyce. Yesterday, Burke gave Galway supporters something to look forward to in 2018. He won 99% of ball that came his way. He tormented Donie Newcombe. Some forwards, you can allow them to win the ball and then try and tackle them. You can’t do this with Burke.
His movement into pockets of space was exquisite. The passes to him were sublime and obviously well-rehearsed. He always had runners on his shoulders. In fact, every Corofin player had runners on their shoulders. Not once yesterday was a Corofin player left isolated. They never stopped moving. In the first half, no-one typified this more than Liam Silke and Dylan Wall. They were constantly probing the Castlebar defence. The give-and-go attitude was exemplary and their distribution of the ball was top notch, with both foot and hand. But back to Burkey.
For some strange reason, the Castlebar management didn’t change markers on him. That was until a few minutes before half-time. Paddy Durcan picked him up. A long ball into Burke. He’s dragged to the ground. Before Marty Duffy has time to get a yellow card out, the intelligent Burke jumps up, takes a quick free to the on-rushing Michael Lundy, a little sidestep on the advancing goalkeeper, back of the net. Most other forwards would have jumped up, yelled at the referee for not taking out his notebook quicker and tapped over the resultant free.
In fact, Ian might have done this himself a few years ago. But he’s thinking differently now, a leader, no doubt buoyed on by some great performances in the maroon jersey during the summer. He didn’t score yesterday, yet was country miles ahead of every other attacker on display. He had one shot with his left foot but he didn’t find the target. He could be ringing his hero today, to get some tips on shooting with the left peg. No better man than PJ for the tips!
The “tip” of the day was a draw. But it should have been won long before that. Corofin will analyse this going forward. They have enough possessionin games to score at least 3-14. Their skill and confidence is the “arrogant play” I addressed earlier. With ten minutes left in normal time yesterday and leading by four points, they held the ball assuredly for 2-3 minutes. Not many other club teams would have the audacity to spray the ball around like they do, without fear of retribution from their management. Corofin lost the ball after this passage, but they showed no panic and there were no growls from their sideline. Corofin had used their full quota of subs as Castlebar tagged on the last few points to rescue a draw.
Advantage Castlebar going into extra-time? Not against this Corofin side.
They move the ball with such pace in clusters of three and four players with great precision and purpose.They have a keeper in Bernard Power who knows how to vary his kick-outs when his team needs it. Their midfielders, even against taller oppositions, invariably come out on top because of their match intelligence. Their bench is envied in Galway club circles. In fact, most Galway clubs dread the thought of playing Corofin, even in a league game. I was disgusted to hear on the terraces yesterday that Corofin have received several walk-overs in the 2017 Division One league! Something wrong somewhere.
On a more positive note for Galway football, Corofin have edged Galway’s tally to 16 in the Connacht Clubs roll of honour. They now share top spot with Roscommon’s Clan na Gael with seven titles apiece. It won’t be long before Corofin get to eight.
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