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Stephen Rochford, former All-Ireland Club Championship winning manager with Corofin and All-Ireland winning footballer with Crossmolina Deel Rovers is pictured at the launch of the AIB GAA Club Player Awards, now in its second year. 
Stephen Rochford, former All-Ireland Club Championship winning manager with Corofin and All-Ireland winning footballer with Crossmolina Deel Rovers is pictured at the launch of the AIB GAA Club Player Awards, now in its second year. 

Rochford expects epic All-Ireland Club Football Final


By John Harrington

What the Corofin footballers have achieved since 2013 has been extraordinary.

They’ve won six Galway senior championships in a row, four Connacht Championships, two All-Ireland titles, and, on Sunday, will make that three All-Irelands if they defeat Dr. Crokes in the 2019 AIB Final.

So, what’s the secret to their success? How have they managed to weave football into the very fabric of life in Corofin and develop a winning culture at the highest level?

Stephen Rochford is better qualified than most to pass judgement. As manager from 2013 to 2015 he led them to three county titles, one Connacht title and one All-Ireland title, and could see with an outsider’s eye just how special a culture the club had managed to foster.

“What I got to know within the club is, firstly they’ve got a tradition now going back to '98 (Corofin’s first All-Ireland Final win),” said Rochford.

“They’ve got a real sense of want, players aspire to be part of the senior team. It’s not necessarily soccer or rugby in the locality.

“There’s huge pride in what they do, and they do very well. They take pride in where they come from in a way of representing the locality. They’re all great values that make them a great club, but also a high-quality team in this moment.

“Building that isn’t the responsibility or result of any one person. It’s the collective. I think, what I would have seen in Corofin, there was a number of leaders within that set-up that had high standards that they wanted to reach.

“And a number of those guys would have intercounty experience and would have replicated that and lifted everybody’s qualities. As a management team there we had high standards and values and ambitions of where we wanted to bring the group.

“Those elements along with the natural quality and skill levels they had. All those facets coming together allow for a really good foundation to be laid and built on over the last number of years.”

Stephen Rochford celebrates with Micheal Lundy after managing Corofin to victory over Slaughtneil in the 2015 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final.
Stephen Rochford celebrates with Micheal Lundy after managing Corofin to victory over Slaughtneil in the 2015 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final.

It’s difficult to remember any AIB All-Ireland Club Football Final that has been as keenly anticipated as Sunday’s.

It’s the 2018 champions, Corofin, against the 2017 champions, Dr. Crokes. Both teams boast a veritable galaxy of star footballers and play a high-tempo, attacking brand of football.

When you weigh up the sheer quality that both teams possess, it’s impossible to imagine the game being anything other than a hugely entertaining contest.

“God above, I think it certainly has the potential to be the highest quality of finals in a long time,” said Rochford.

“Probably thinking back to Ballymun and Brigid’s. It was a real, end to end, high quality game. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I’m trying to think of one that went right up to the final whistle. You had Ballymun getting into a lead, and Brigid’s tagging them back. It came down to the final play.

“I don’t see more than a score being in it. That could be two points. But certainly no more than a goal, a three-point margin. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the two of them kicked in injury time. It’s going to be really tight.

“For me, it’s going to be the defence that wins the game. The two forward lines are of very very high potential. There’s a lot of slick, quality pacey two-footed footballers playing on both those teams.

“Then you look at, probably in Crokes you have potentially Colm Cooper’s experience to come off the bench if he doesn’t start. May that be a deciding factor for them?

“Maybe it will. I know my own loyalties will bring me back to knowing what Corofin can bring to the table. But it’s going to be fascinating on the sideline and out on the pitch as well.”

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