Corofin native Donnellan in charge of Mountbellew-Moylough
By Cian O'Connell
It has been a curious few weeks for Michael Donnellan. Corofin to the core, Donnellan has successfully busied himself coaching other teams for the past number of years.
Having steered Moycullen back into the senior ranks, Donnellan is now making an impact with Mountbellew-Moylough.
An All Ireland club winner with Corofin in 1998, Donnellan also won seven Galway SFC and three Connacht medals.
"Yeah, I suppose it is a bit strange, I was joking with somebody earlier on that I went down to see my mother last week and she had a Corofin flag out," Donnellan laughs. "So I was thinking that is divided loyalties, it is strange, but when you are involved with a club or a group of players you are just trying to do the best you can for them.
"Look, I'm steeped in Corofin, it is in my blood, it always will be. Corofin will always will be number one, but when you are with a group you want the best for that group.
"We have just watched this group grow and develop over the year and we just want to see where that takes us. For the match on Sunday we will just be hoping we can deliver a good performance, to give a good account of ourselves."
That type of determined attitude has served Mountbellew-Moylough well. Aaron McHugh is an established player with the club and believes significant strides have been taken since their last final appearance two years ago.
"We do have a very young team across, but there is a big difference even though we have more or less the same squad as 2015," McHugh states.
"The two years experience has made a massive difference to the younger lads. They might only be 22 or 23, but these boys are driving the team really. Obviously Joe is a phenomenal inspiration, it is a great bunch of lads.
"It gives you a massive boost playing because when you see lads winning at minor and Under 21 you know there is a good bunch of lads coming through. That will keep you going."
McHugh stresses Donnellan and Kieran Murphy's desire to improve Mountbellew-Moylough, who feature the Amsterdam based Cathal Kenny.
"It feels a like a long time ago since we were out slogging in the wet and the wind," McHugh remarks. "You weren't safe what part of the country you were in Murphs made sure you were out running, even Cathal Kenny in Amsterdam.
"He has been flying over for the games so it has been a serious commitment by the man. He is in some shape for a man that isn't training with a senior team all year."
Inevitably much interest surrounds the role being occupied by Joe Bergin. Donnellan acknowledges Bergin's importance to the Mountbellew-Moylough cause.
"I really couldn't speak highly enough about the group of players involved," Donnellan admits.
"You have leaders like Joe Bergin, 16 years after winning an All Ireland with Galway he is still plugging away. We have quite a young team, out of starting 15 we will have six or seven Under 21s, with five of them Under 21 again next year. It is a really young team, a lot of guys playing senior for the first time ever so having Joe there as a kind of mentor to those guys has been fantastic.
"Watching other leaders emerge has been great, Michael Daly has been captain this year, he has really relished the role and risen to the challenge of being captain, he has been fantastic both on and off the field. There is a nice mix there."
Donnellan knows all about Corofin's class, character, and consistency. "Corofin are incredibly seasoned, this is their ninth county final in 10 years," Donnellan remarks.
"They are current Connacht champions, they were All Ireland champions a couple of seasons ago, they have been through all of those campaigns together. People said they didn't play well in the semi-final against Annaghdown, but I thought their game management and experience was phenomenal when it mattered in the end.
"Their physical maturity and the conditioning work they have done over the years is exceptional. Here they are going for five in a row, it is up to other clubs in Galway to get to the standard Corofin are at and put in the work Corofin have to reach that standard. Until that they are going to keep winning."
Mountbellew-Moylough have worked diligently to deliver promising underage teams, a critical factor according to Donnellan.
"Without a doubt, in Mountbellew the Under 21s won a Championship last year, they have a strong Under 21 team this year, they won a minor a couple of years ago and a group of players did come along together at the same time," Donnellan says.
"That is the backbone of the senior team now. The challenge for Mountbellew and other clubs is to keep that going down through the ranks.
Going back to why Corofin are so good. It goes back to Under 10s and Under 8s, Frank Morris, the coaching that goes in. The structures and skill sets they have by the time they get to senior level it is about gelling all that into a team scenario. So that is the challenge for everybody."
Donnellan can still recall his first foray into training and management with a Corofin Under 10 team that includes Sunday's captain Ciaran McGrath.
"I'm still learning, the game has evolved and changed so much," Donnellan adds.
"I was away from the game for a few years, but came back to get involved with Corofin in 2011.
"I was shocked at that point about how much the game has changed and since that it has moved on again.
"The statistics, video analysis, and technical side of it has developed so much overall. It is a learning curve for us all, but I suppose the core basics are still there.
"Your job as a manager, whether it is an Under 12 team or a senior team, it is the same principle applies. My first coaching job, in my career, if you could call it a career, was Corofin Under 10s, myself and Danny Ryder. Joe Canney and Ciaran McGrath, all of those guys, they all played that time, great lads, who have won a lot since. A conveyor belt started to come along after that."
That has most certainly been the case. Mountbellew-Moylough are hopeful that their own production line is starting to click.