Culture Clubs clash in AIB Football Final
By John Harrington
Cosmetic differences can’t disguise the fact that Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Club Football finalists Corofin and Nemo Rangers have a lot in common.
Corofin are the archetypal rural GAA club whereas Nemo are city slickers, but they share a deeply rooted passion for the sport and culture of excellence that has made both such high achievers.
Nemo are the most successful club in the history of the game with seven All-Ireland titles. The main reason they’re such serial winners is because each successive generation continues to give back to the club and drive standards long after they’ve hung up their own boots.
The same applies in Corofin. The current crop of players are the best the club has ever produced, but they were shown the way by the class of ’98 who won Corofin’s first ever All-Ireland title.
“We'd be very lucky,” Corofin forward Gary Sice told GAA.ie “We've had former players come back in. Kevin O'Brien (Corofin’s manager) has an All-Ireland club medal, he was here in '98.
“I think that's how you build a tradition. That's how you build a desire. I grew up watching my uncle play, he won an All-Ireland here.
“Most of the lads on the team have some relation to somebody who has been here and done this. That's how you build it, I suppose. It's nice to have that tradition.
“Nemo are no different. They're not in the business of looking over the wall at anybody else.
“Their wall is the one to be looking over. They've the most All-Irelands and they operate like that. They're a very good footballing side and they're an example for any club in Ireland of how to do things.
“They keep coming back. That tells you where they're at. They're a superpower in the club game, themselves and Crossmaglen would be the two that would stand out.”
Corofin might still be some way behind Nemo and Crossmaglen in the overall Roll of Honour, but they’ve been the most consistent club team in the country in the past five years, winning five county titles, three Connacht titles, and one All-Ireland title in that time.
That level of achievement isn’t possible without a bunch of seriously driven players in a dressing-room. Their standards are so high because the players will accept nothing less that maximum commitment from one another.
“Well, obviously, it's not written on the wall,” said Sice. “You do have a respect for the fella beside you that you're going to give everything that you have. Any team in any sport that does succeed.
“That level of respect is there between each player that they're going to do their best for each other on a given day. You can't ask any more than that from anybody. That's the same with us. That's how we work.
“You're just looking to perform and you're looking to improve on your last performance. There's nothing else to it. It's just straightforward. You're looking to perform and improve your last performance and if you can do that, great.
“I think if you can enjoy doing it, all the better. We're enjoying our football and we're enjoying ourselves when we're playing. That's the key to it all.”
They very rarely fall short of giving their all, and the few occasions when they have simply add more fuel to their fire.
Last year’s AIB All-Ireland Club semi-final defeat to eventual champions Dr. Crokes was one such occasion. Corofin simply didn’t play to their potential on the day, but the sting of that failure and desire to make amends has helped drive them as far as Saturday’s Final.
“We were disappointed in ourselves that we didn't perform,” admits Sice. “Partly because we weren't allowed to perform, they were excellent on the day.
“It was more frustration in that we didn't perform the way we can ourselves. Getting an opportunity to fix that now was fantastic against Moorefield but now we have to go and perform again.
“That's what we'll be looking for is a performance against Nemo. Come what may after that.”
Nemo might have seven All-Irelands to Corofin’s two, but it’s 15 years since their last one whereas most of this Corofin team tasted the ultimate glory as recently as 2015.
You’d imagine that sort of experience should give them a slight edge, but Sice doesn’t believe it will be the defining factor of Saturday’s Final.
“I don't think so. Based on their manager alone, he has three All-Ireland clubs. That experience will feed down through the group.
“They've shown that against Crokes and they've shown that against Slaughtneil. There won't be an issue there. I don't think they scored for 20 minutes against Slaughtneil and they never panicked. Then they kicked five in a row in three minutes, I think it was.
“So, there's no issue there with experience - that won't come into it. I think it'll just be a good game of football between two footballing is sides.
“They're a traditional power, they've been bred on winning All-Irelands down there. They know what it's about. I don't think the experience thing will be any issue at all.”