Corrigan thrilled to secure Hogan Cup glory
By Michael Devlin
“We're in heaven and I will tell you what, if heaven when we depart this earth is anything like this here, I will want to go there.”
Dominic Corrigan puts Saturday’s Hogan Cup triumph with St Michael’s College Enniskillen as his finest achievement in the game.
It’s been an achievement built over 40 years. In 1979, the great Peter McGinnity took St Michael’s back into the top tier of Ulster colleges football, and he ended their 19-year wait for a second MacRory Cup in 1992.
In 1999, former Fermanagh player and manager Corrigan took over the school team, and in the two decades since he won the cup five more times, more than any other school in that period.
But the All-Ireland title had always eluded him – that is until now. Hogan Cup finalists in 2002 and 2012, Corrigan stood in the Cusack Stand tunnel in a calm state of satisfaction having finally, at the third time of asking, won the big one.
“In 1957 the college opened, and in 1973 we had our first MacRory,” Corrigan told GAA.ie after his side’s thrilling one-point win over Naas CBS. “We have strived and fought hard all those years, but to have ended up with the Holy Grail of the All-Ireland Colleges' A title, we're in heaven.
“It's up there as top. There is something special about college's football, something special about winning MacRory Cups. As I say, I am in heaven. Nothing, nothing beats this.
“An All-Ireland title to Fermanagh. It is going to be very proud, going to be very emotional,” Corrigan said when asked about bringing the cup to the Erne County for the first time.
“I am going to have to contain myself because there has been long hours, serious time and work put into it over the years and the fact we get our hands on it and the players asked me to go up and receive the cup, which is a nice touch from them. I was happy to do it. It was very special.”
“We knew that in 2012, we didn't perform on the day, but certainly we performed, and I felt that this team were well capable to win, on the provincial stage and on the national stage.”
Saturday’s final ebbed and flowed, with Enniskillen holding firm in injury time to withstand a late surge from the Kildare lads to edge it, 1-12 to 1-11. Naas struck for the game’s first goal midway through the first half through Eoin Conneff, but Enniskillen aptly responded with Darragh MacBrien coolly slotting in as the Ulster side led by two at the break.
St Michael’s threatened to pull clear with man-of-the-match Micheál Glynn leading the way, but Naas came fighting back and reduced the gap to one with a few injury time minutes remaining.
The tense finale held both sets of supporters in suspense, but it was to be the Enniskillen contingent who would be rejoicing at referee Rory Hickey’s final whistle. “A fantastic game of football, and I said it to the Naas lads inside; we played them in January in Virginia in Cavan,” said Corrigan.
“It was a massive battle, we knew we were coming here for another massive battle, we got that. It was a fantastic game of football, but I think we were the better side over the 60 minutes.
“We made life difficult for ourselves at times, I thought we could have nailed another couple of scores, but I thought we were on top in that second period. Our second half performance was outstanding, and I think deservedly we are All-Ireland champions.”
Responding to that Conneff goal in the 12th was a particularly satisfying aspect for Corrigan, typifying the maturity and character that his side has embodied all the way through the season.
“I think that has been the secret of this team, being able to respond to setbacks. We bounced back tremendously, and we have been doing that all this season and we wouldn't be here today only for our ability to recover from setbacks.
“We weren't overly concerned about the goal - disappointed with conceding it, but we knew there was plenty of time to come back and nail scores ourselves.
“Fair play to Darragh who stuck away his goal magnificently and overall, words are failing me.”
It’s a victory that will be keenly felt across the Fermanagh football spectrum. Most often, St Michael’s squads will feature players from Cavan and Tyrone clubs, but this year’s panel was unique that all the players hailed from Fermanagh clubs.
A success that is 100 per cent homegrown will be a “tremendous lift to Fermanagh football”, according to Corrigan.
“It's going to give energy to all aspects of Fermanagh football, from underage right up to senior level. It is a fantastic victory for everybody involved and it is going to be a massive, massive tonic for Fermanagh football going forward.”