Corofin keep us believing
Kingpins make mockery of spoofers and reap the full rewards by focusing on football’s core skills
When the Americans first sent a manned mission into space they discovered that the ballpoint pen didn’t work high up in the heavens.
So NASA spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would write in space. Meanwhile, the Russian cosmonauts used pencils. It’s called common sense.
Unfortunately common sense has been in short supply when it comes to our handling of Covid-19.
Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about.
We’re told that the virus is most likely to spread in indoor locations where crowds assemble. Surely then the wearing of face masks indoors should have been made compulsory months ago.
Common sense told us that the elderly, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, would be most vulnerable.
Their protection should have been prioritised from day one. We all know what happened in nursing homes.
It was the same in meat factories and direct-provision centres. But action wasn’t taken until it was too late.
At the other end of the scale surely the ten counties with less than one per cent of the cases should not be subjected to the same regime as the counties where there are clusters of cases.
Likewise, rural bars should not be classed in the same category as super pubs in cities.
Given that the virus is rarely transmitted in outdoor settings, it makes no sense to restrict
attendances at games to just 200.
The response of the government and National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to the Covid-19 issue has been devoid of common sense.
I know this article should be focusing on GAA matters.
But I make no apologies for highlighting recommendations made by Nphet, and approved by the government, which I believe make no sense.
Sport plays an important role in Irish society. It is vital for both our physical and mental well-being. Watching or participating in sport has never been more important.
Of course, there are risks involved in playing sport. But virtually every aspect of life carries some risk and did so before anybody heard of Covid-19.
As I have repeatedly written here, we must balance risk with reward and, above everything, apply a bit a common sense.
That’s why banning matches for three weekends in Kildare, Laois and Offaly on the basis of a cluster of outbreaks, primarily in meat-processing plants, was an over-the-top reaction and wrong.
Watching sport, and, in particular, GAA matches, has been my escape valve in recent weeks.
And we have had some crackers: Dr Crokes v Kenmare, Templenoe v Kenmare and last weekend’s local derby in Mayo between Castlebar Mitchels and Breaffy were not just entertaining. The quality of the football on offer was top class.
But the nearest thing we have to Shangri-La in club football is Corofin, the reigning Galway, Connacht and All-Ireland club champions.
They consistently produce what can only be described as breathtaking football.
Just look at their statistics. They’re unbeaten in 47 games in the Galway championship and have scored 97 goals in those games.
Team manager Kevin O’Brien has an astonishing record.
Since taking charge in 2016, he has guided them to 40 championship wins and two draws. The only loss he experienced was against Dr Crokes in the 2017 All-Ireland club semi-final.
In their first championship game this season, they routed Oughterard by 27 points. And Oughterard are no slouches, as my beloved Templenoe discovered last season.
On their way to winning the All-Ireland intermediate title, the Galway side defeated a Templenoe team containing four Kerry senior players.
Last weekend, Corofin beat Monivea Abbey by 23 points. They are heading for their eighth Galway title in a row.
Earlier this year they became the first club to win a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles. They would have been hot favourites to make it four in a row but for the cancellation of the competition due to Covid-19.
And look at the winning margins in those deciders. An eight-point victory over Kilcoo after extra-time this year; 12 points to spare over Dr Crokes in 2019 and a 15-point demolition of Nemo Rangers in 2018.
They have never got the recognition they deserve for their achievements or the quality of the football they play.
Unfortunately for them, their period of dominance has run parallel to Dublin’s amazing run at All-Ireland level and they have grabbed most of the spotlight.
But there is so much to admire about the Galway club.
I’m particularly taken by their humility. They never brag about their achievements or lecture other clubs on how the game should be played, or how advanced their systems are.
Their attitude contrasts sharply with their GAA brethren in Ulster, who at county level have a habit of lecturing the rest of us about how Gaelic football should be played.
After Down became the first county to bring the Sam Maguire Cup across the border they suggested that they were the first county to introduce tactics into Gaelic football.
The late Joe Lennon was quoted as saying that Kerry football was ten years behind the times.
Since their breakthrough success in 1960, Down has won four more All-Ireland titles – the last coming 26 years ago. In that period ‘behind the times’ Kerry have won 18 titles.
In the wake of Armagh’s breakthrough win in 2002, they told us that their success was all about physicality, the use of defensive systems and the deployment of psychologists.
Ultimately Armagh underachieved, winning just one title, though some players from that team are still telling us how the game should be played.
In their All-Ireland victory in 2003, Tyrone went a step further with their swarm defences, allied to a running game, and they introduced a new word – transition – to the GAA lexicon.
In fairness, Tyrone did win three All-Ireland titles in six seasons – though they never achieved back-to-back wins. Mickey Harte is still in charge but it is 12 seasons since they last secured an All-Ireland.
Jim McGuinness tore up the GAA playbook – or so we were told. The way Donegal played was to be the new normal in Gaelic football.
The rest who clung to traditional values were akin to cavemen and going nowhere. So how did Donegal fare after their 2012 All-Ireland win?
They were humiliated by Mayo in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final – losing by 16 points – and then lost to an ageing Kerry side in the 2014 final.
The true messiah of Donegal football was Brian McEniff, who was manager in 1992 when they broke the glass ceiling and won their first All-Ireland. But that doesn’t fit the narrative.
Okay, I digress – back to Corofin.
They get on with the job of weaving a glorious tapestry on the field.
I love their philosophy: they play the game in its purest form, they don’t over complicate their beautiful kick-passing game, their use of space, running angles and support play, composure and unselfishness are all top notch.
Essentially, they are a club version of Dublin – and that is the biggest accolade I can bestow on them.
The way they play the game reinforces my long-held belief that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Gaelic football, once it is played properly by teams with the right attitude.
There is definitely no need for tinkering with the rules.
Of course, Corofin’s success has not happened by accident.
Their underlying philosophy was summed up by their manager O’Brien after their demolition of Oughterard.
He said it was about three things: basic skills, players having the freedom to express themselves and, finally, – and to my mind most importantly – about building players and people.
After their 2018 All-Ireland final win over Nemo Rangers I suggested that a DVD of the game should be sent to every coach in the country.
I’d go one step further now and propose that a transcript of O’Brien’s interview be sent to clubs with instructions that it be framed and hung in every GAA dressing room.
Our beautiful game has been hijacked by spoofers who are obsessed by negativity, strength and conditioning, video analysis, statistics and GPSs.
They focus on the opposition and produce players who are straitjacketed. They adhere to a rigid game plan which outlaws individuality and frowns on flair.
So Corofin are a breath of fresh air in these arid conditions. Long may they prosper and continue to entertain.