The contribution of Corofin’s younger brigade has been central to their Croke Park return, according to manager Kevin O’Brien.

From the team which overcame Moorefield last month, five were not members of the starting line-up on the afternoon of their 2015 All-Ireland club final win.

Defender Dylan Wall nailed down a starting berth in the months after Corofin took ownership of the Andy Merrigan Cup for the second time.

Kieran Molloy and Jason Leonard established themselves in 2016, while Colin Brady became a first-team regular at the outset of the current campaign. Leonard, at 23, is the oldest of this quartet.

He and 21-year-old Colin Brady were the team’s chief marksmen on the afternoon of their extra-time Connacht final win last November, kicking 0-5 and 1-1, respectively.

Indeed, after Gary Sice (1-28), the pair sit second and third — Leonard (0-29), Brady (4-12) — in the Corofin scoring charts across the 10 games it has taken them to reach GAA HQ.

Off the bench, too, there have been notable imprints left by Conor Cunningham (23), Ciaran Brady (20), and Dylan McHugh (20).

“Maybe some of the younger guys needed the 2016/17 campaign to bed in because they have really pushed on this season,” says manager Kevin O’Brien.

Colin Brady coming in this season has become a key player. Dylan McHugh and Ciaran Brady have done well. These guys are coming in and making an impact. That’s very important for us.

“Maybe, against Dr Crokes in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final, they were a year younger and didn’t have that confidence and experience. You gain experience all the time.

“They were pivotal for us in the semi-final and final of the Connacht series. They had a big impact in games where teams were coming back at us and we were struggling. I know we were here three years ago, but this is a new team again.”

That Crokes defeat (2-11 to 0-8) in February of last year still sticks in the craw.

We didn’t do what Corofin normally does: Go out and perform. It was kind of a sore point that we carried through to this year. That probably reflected in our play. We were very cautious when we were down to 14 men against Moorefield. But it was all about getting over the line and getting to the final.

On the challenge of Nemo, O’Brien, who was a selector under Stephen Rochford three years ago, said: “They are a carbon copy of what we are about. They play football and move the ball.

Tomás Ó Sé is a great leader for them, and I’m sure a great man to have in the dressing room. He epitomises everything about the game and how it should be played. I’d be a huge fan of his, probably not the next day, but when he played for Kerry. He was a beautiful footballer to watch.


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