| 2.7°C Dublin

Corofin's hat-trick is no guarantee that Joyce can inspire Galway back to Sam

Close

DELIGHT: Kieran Molloy of Corofin celebrates. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

DELIGHT: Kieran Molloy of Corofin celebrates. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

DELIGHT: Kieran Molloy of Corofin celebrates. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Now that this current Corofin collective have copper-fastened their reputation as the greatest club football team of them all, it seems timely to recollect their forebearers' maiden All-Ireland SFC coronation, all of 22 years ago.

The Corofin outfit that buried the hopes and dreams of Finglas, overcoming Erin's Isle by 0-15 to 0-10, have never ranked on any shortlist of the best club teams in history.

But they were trailblazers, all the same.

Prior to St Patrick's Day, 1998, no Connacht club had lifted the Andy Merrigan Cup.

Twenty-seven years of All-Ireland club finals had yielded 11 hard-luck stories for vanquished challengers from the west; two of those 11 hailed from Galway.

But 1998 was the sliding doors moment that tilted history in another direction. Connacht clubs have won ten of the 23 All-Irelands on offer between '98 and last Sunday, losing a further five finals.

Seven of those winners (and not a single runner-up) were schooled in the Galway championship.

And five of those wins came with a Corofin copyright, including that first ever hat-trick and four of the last six.

The curious thing about '98 is what followed, more immediately: that September, the Galway county footballers ended their own 32-year All-Ireland famine.

Ray Silke, the captain of Corofin, was also skipper of Galway: the ultimate armband double.

Goalkeeper Martin McNamara was also on both teams.

Grab it

And as McNamara recalled in Into The West '98, a book penned later that year by Richard Canny and Liam Heagney: "A lot of Connacht teams had gone to Croke Park and they were good enough to win, but just didn't go out and grab it.

"Corofin showed the rest of us. They were not a super team - there were no brilliant individuals - but they were a good team and played as a team. That showed the way for Galway as well."

Fast-forward to the Corofin of today: individual brilliance has been a recurring theme (albeit less obviously against Kilcoo) while their status as a superlative team, not just a super one, is beyond question.

Their ability to carve open defences with mesmerising interplay, with pinball accuracy of passing both short and long, has been a standout quality under Kevin O'Brien.

But here's the thing: does their pre-eminence make it any more likely that Galway will end their latest All-Ireland wait, now stretching back 19 years to their second half tour de force against Meath in 2001?

Probably not, for multiple reasons.

While Corofin showed the way in '98, the real difference that year was John O'Mahony's ability to blend more experienced campaigners (such as Tomás Mannion, Kevin Walsh, Seán de Paor and Jarlath Fallon) with a new crop of supremely gifted U21s (led by Pádraic Joyce and Michael Donnellan).

Just two Corofin players, McNamara and Silke, started that year's final. Twelve different clubs were represented in the All-Ireland parade.

There are similarities, you could argue, with the Galway of recent vintage. The team that faltered in the second half to lose last year's Connacht final against Roscommon included just two Corofin starters - Liam Silke and Ian Burke.

Whatever the dynamic between Corofin and Galway under Kevin Walsh's stewardship, there is no doubting that the former's attacking flamboyance was frequently cited by others as a stick to beat the county team.

Galway shed plenty of their old frailties under Walsh, but their defensive rigidity and caution attracted endless criticism too - especially when results turned last summer.

Progressive

Now Pádraic Joyce steps into the Tribal hotseat, with early FBD signs of a more progressive style of play.

But Corofin's latest victory guarantees nothing.

In the past decade there has been just one club-and-county All-Ireland 'double' - Ballyboden St Enda's and Dublin in 2016. Galway's best performance after a Corofin triumph came in 2018, when they reached an All-Ireland semi-final; in 2015 and '19 they fell at the fourth qualifier fence.

At least this time, with the altered fixture calendar, there is more chance for Corofin men to show their paces in the league.

But the Galway jury remains out, for now … the hope of their new manager and supporters is that the 2020 verdict will not be delivered until the very end of August.