Corofin captain Ciaran McGrath is ready for action
By Cian O’Connell
Only 10 minutes had elapsed in the 2015 AIB All Ireland Club Final when Ciaran McGrath heard the snap. Serious knee damage was done, but McGrath, ever the competitor, stayed on the Croke Park pitch as Corofin reclaimed the Andy Merrigan Cup.
In the intervening years McGrath, who opted not to have an operation, had a trouble free injury stint before the Connacht Club Final in November. Since then McGrath has been busy trying to prepare himself for St Patrick’s Day.
Back in 2015 following Corofin’s classy triumph over Slaughtneil McGrath decided not to undergo surgery. “I broke my leg five years ago, when I did my knee I went into see the same specialist and he was happy enough with the work I had put in over the time that I broke my leg that if I was willing maybe the work we had done previous would stand to us,” McGrath explains.
“If we did more maybe it might hold up and remain stable. It did, to be fair, for the guts of two years, two and a half years. Once it hit I got a bad one.
“It was the first injury since. It was just unfortunate, I was going for a ball and got my leg caught in behind Neil Douglas' legs, he twisted one way and my knee went the other.”
I'm lucky to be part of it and there is a legacy there with Corofin.
Injury struck McGrath at an important time previously too - just when he was beginning to establish himself with Galway. A double leg break suffered while hurling with Sylane disturbed McGrath’s inter-county chances.
“Yeah, I was just getting a good run,” McGrath says. “I had a year or two done with Galway and it takes a year or two to bed in for inter-county football.
“I would have played loads of club football and club football at a top level, but when you go in at inter-county at that time you are talking 2011 and 2012 the gym became a big thing and the diet became a big thing. It took me 12 months to transition with the pace of the inter county game at that stage compared to the club game.
“Now it seems to have levelled off where all clubs are doing as much as inter-county teams are at. Then you had Donegals, Dublins, it was just physically different, you had to be fit, train hard and that stuff. It took a year, 18 months to bed in, to acclimatise to inter-county football.”
As a boy McGrath references Sarsfields’ thrilling triumphs when the Galway club were on the summit of the club hurling world, while Corofin’s own victory in 1998 left a deep impact.
“I was lucky enough to see Corofin take off from there,” McGrath acknowledges. “I'm lucky to be part of it and there is a legacy there with Corofin. I'm lucky to be part of it somewhat for the last few years.”
Football tops the agenda in Corofin and a pressure does exist maintaining the high standards that have been set.
“I think for management it is harder to be a manager of Corofin than a player because I think so many people have opinions on football.
“As players you don't think so, but probably when you are there is nothing said, but when you are not there I've no doubt there is a lot said about you. We are lucky enough as a group we stick together, we socialise together, we are all the one age.
Stephen just came in and nobody could complain. What I'm trying to get at is at that time there would have been an element of is he playing because of who he is or he is related to someone.
“There is enough of us to back each other up and lads are smart enough not to say too much to us. We can be fiery enough,” McGrath laughs.
Having claimed an All Ireland under Stephen Rochford three years ago McGrath is proud that Corofin remain so relevant on the Galway, Connacht, and national stage.
“It was ideal because we just felt we had hit a bit of a plateau as a club where we were dominating Galway, struggling through Connacht, and not getting to Croke Park,” McGrath remarks about Rochford’s arrival.
“We had a mix of young, middle aged, and older players. Stephen just came in and nobody could complain. What I'm trying to get at is at that time there would have been an element of is he playing because of who he is or he is related to someone.
“Stephen came in and everyone was on a level playing field. You got your just reward with him, whoever deserved to be playing was playing. He brought in a professional regime and a strict regime and if you didn't survive playing that was it. If you survived you were lucky enough to be there in 2015 when it all came to fruition, I suppose.”
Saturday’s clash with bluebloods Nemo Rangers promises to be another interesting chapter in the Corofin tale. McGrath, Corofin to the core, will be gunning for action.