Corofin record speaks for itself says Kilcoo's Johnston
By Michael Devlin
Kilcoo forward Jerome Johnston is under no illusions as to the magnitude of the challenge facing his side this Sunday.
With Corofin chasing down an unprecedented third successive All-Ireland title, Johnston believes the Galway masters are out on their own as the best team in the club football’s history.
“Corofin are probably a level up from anyone in Ireland, as they’ve proven over the last number of years,” says the 27-year-old.
“They are a bit of a wrecking ball. I think everyone is in awe at some of the football they’ve played at different times in their campaigns.
“They have been exceptional and they deserve that praise that they’ve got and the title of being probably the best club team there has ever been. The record speaks for itself.
“The All-Ireland final, you’d have watched them and some of the moves they’ve put together. It’s as good as you would have seen in any level of Gaelic football.”
This All-Ireland campaign has been unchartered territory for Kilcoo, who defeated Naomh Conaill to finally capture a much sought-after maiden Ulster title.
A tense victory over Dublin and Leinster kingpins Ballyboden ten days ago then booked the Magpies their place in this weekend’s Croke Park showdown with the reigning champions.
After years of falling at hurdles put up by familiar foes such as Slaughtneil and Crossmaglen, Kilcoo’s relief at eventually getting over the line was palpable in the aftermath of last month’s Ulster final. Now Johnston is relishing the opportunity to take on a novel opponent in Corofin.
“That’s the beauty of the competition. We are playing teams from all over Ireland. Corofin is a long, long way away from Kilcoo, so it’s probably the first time the clubs have ever met.
“In terms of us knowing them, or them knowing us, obviously you have access to videos and stuff, but on a personal level I can’t imagine anyone will know each other.”
Croke Park too will be a new scenario for the majority of Kilcoo’s players, but not Johnston. He played there for St Colman’s Newry in Hogan Cup finals in 2010 and 2011, and has been in action at headquarters in Down colours on numerous occasions since.
Corofin meanwhile have been Croker specialists in recent times, hammering Nemo Rangers by 15 points in 2017 before tearing apart another Munster giant, Killarney Dr Crokes, in a 12-point win there last March to secure back-to-back Andy Merrigan Cups.
While many believe the venue and the occasion tends to bring out the best of Corofin’s brand of scintillating football, Johnston plays down the idea that Croke Park holds a particular advantage for the Galway men.
“At the end of the day, it’s still grass on a field. Obviously there’s a nicer stand around it, compared to the rest.
“Personally, I loved Casement the most out of the lot of them. Those boys, I couldn’t imagine them caring as long as it’s a grass pitch and four white lines.
“They’ll say they enjoy getting there to play, especially with the performances they have put in there. There have been times when you’ve watched them, and they’ve totally dominated teams.”
But for all the chat about the brilliance of the Galway men, Kilcoo are in the final on their own merit, thanks to their own string of impressive displays built on swift and attractive attacking football.
Johnston stresses the importance of Kilcoo keeping the focus firmly on themselves in the run-up to the game rather than give too much consideration to their opponents, something he admits they have been guilty of in years gone by.
“Maybe that’s been us in the past, that we’ve focused too much on the other team. So in terms of having two weeks to get ready, it’s 100 per cent. Mickey [Moran] is more focused on us focusing on ourselves.
“We’ve worked hard, we definitely have put a lot of work in, probably more so than in previous years. We’ll go out, you’re there and you’re going to try, there’s no doubt there’s a massive challenge ahead.”