Clann na nGael hoping to put it up to Corofin
By Eoghan Tuohey
Clann na nGael manager, Feargal Shine, believes his squad have the capabilities to put it up to reigning All-Ireland champions Corofin in Sunday’s AIB Connacht Club SFC semi-final.
The Roscommon club have started slowly in many of their games but in the county final they saw off St. Brigids, their fiercest rivals in recent years, in impressive fashion, a performance with which the manager was very pleased.
“Yeah, in the group stages of the championship and the semi-final, we kind of scraped through a bit,” said Shine.
“We really focused in the county final, we wanted a first half performance, we went about our business that day against Brigid’s, it all came together that day, it was a complete performance I’d have to say”.
Clann na nGael top the club championship roll of honour in Roscommon, but this was only their second senior county title since 1996.
They haven’t won the Connacht crown since 1989, but that win completed a six-in-a-row in what was a golden era for the club.
Some time has passed since those halcyon days, yet Shine believes this is a crop of players who are capable of special things.
“When we win a county title, we have a squad good enough to go further,” said Shine.
“That’s what we’re looking for, the county final is finished with and we’re looking to go on in the competition”.
This is a young panel, with an average age of 23, which augurs well not only for this year’s representatives, but for the coming seasons as well.
“Yeah, Donie Shine is still not thirty, it feels like he’s been around forever, the team is a young team, there’s plenty of U-20s and Minors there, and we’re going well at the minute,” said Shine.
They started slowly again in the Connacht quarter final against the London champions, Tir Chonaill Gaels, and needed a strong fifteen minute finish to see off their dogged opponents, but Shine believes it’s a game that will stand to them.
“Playing Tir Chonaill, you know, they’re a proper team in fairness to them, they’re a good set-up, they had some good players.
“It can be hard to get that through to some players, some fellas can take these things for granted, but we knew it was going to be a battle.
“We were probably slow out of the blocks a little bit, we dug deep, I suppose, we had a few words at half-time, we came strong for 15 minutes there which got us over the line”.
Clann play an attractive brand of attacking football, with an emphasis on movement, but Shine concedes they might have to cut their cloth to suit against a Corofin team that will punish any slack defending to the hilt.
“Yeah, I suppose, you’re playing the All-Ireland champions, we wouldn’t be a defensive set-up, so far this year, or over the last couple of years.
“But, you don’t play teams of the calibre of Corofin every week either, so you kind of have to adapt too, certainly we wouldn’t be an all-out defensive team, no, we wouldn’t be going down that road, but, obviously we’d look to have certain things put in place to curb them a bit, you know.”
Home advantage will play an important role for the Roscommon representatives and they also possess several top-class talents to rival anyone in Corofin’s ranks.
Former inter-county star, Donie Shine, and up and coming talent, Ciarán Lennon, have been especially consistent performers for the club this year.
“Yeah, obviously from the scoring point of view, they are (important for us)," said Shine.
“Ciaran is a young fella but he’s emerged onto the county squad this year and he’s doing well, he’s vital for us inside and Donie, then, of course, he’s out on his own as far as I’d be concerned, he’s a great guy, captain, top scorer the last number of years, if we didn’t have Donie we’d be a different team.”
“But you know, we have a great panel, we have plenty young fellas who are mad to get out there, there’s competition for places, any lad going out there will be giving it his all.”
Corofin go into the game, as they would most this year, as warm favourites. However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way. It should make for a pulsating contest.