St. Michael's ready to attack in Hogan Cup Final
By Damian Lawlor
Dom Corrigan, the former Fermanagh player and manager, believes that the Masita GAA Post-Primary series has shown the way forward for the intercounty game.
Corrigan leads his St Michael’s Enniskillen side into battle in Saturday’s Hogan Cup final against Naas CBS.
It’s the showpiece of colleges’ football and the ex-Killyclogher and Carrickmore manager reckons that the competition is showing the way forward for the intercounty game.
“It is evolving all the time at intercounty level,” Corrigan, who was manager of the Clontibret side that defeated Scotstown in the Monaghan SFC final in 2014, says.
“Jim McGuinness was the founder of the all-out blanket defence, if you like. But I saw him in the Sky Sports studios last year and he said that the style he won an All-Ireland with is done. Teams have found a way around it.
“You can see it now at the top level. The era of the mass, blanket defence is passing.
“Even last weekend at Croke Park all of the teams committed to leaving men in the forward area, to counter-attacking.
“For years teams were just focused on mass defence.
“They forgot all about the transition game.
“But I have to say that colleges football has always focused on leaving players up front and getting the ball to them quickly. And that is the difference. At least players have had the chance to express themselves when they play with their schools, but it has been much more rigid at county level.
“Thankfully, I think that is changing now,” he said. "The advanced mark had a lot to do with it. It encouraged teams like Tyrone to commit more men like Mattie Donnelly, who had been hamstrung with their lateral passing game in recent years.
"The advanced mark almost made Tyrone push him and Cathal McShane up to the full forward line and make them a focal point.
“I am sorry that mark is going to be done away with for the championship – in my opinion it should be left alone.”
Corrigan says his St Michael’s side have been resilient and hardworking all year long. And he wants to reward them by letting them express themselves.
“That’s always been my way,” he stresses. “You should never turn a great forward into an average defender.
“All year long we have been put to the pin of our collar and I expect it will be the same again on Saturday but now we are in the final, the aim is to go on and win it.
“We have had plenty of work to do and improvement to make all season long but we’ve played seven games in total and we have learned all the way through.
“The good thing about it is these boys are really, really hungry to make those improvements.
“I’m especially pleased in the manner in which we have had to dig out results all the way through Ulster and against Claremorris in the Hogan Cup semi-final.
“The boys have been rocked back in some games but on each occasion they have bounced back.
“The players seem to step up to the plate when it is needed.”
And Corrigan is hopeful that they can put in a good show against Naas CBS on Saturday. The Kildare men have been in sterling form all the way through the season and caused a huge shock by beating Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s PS Corca Dhuibhne side at Mallow last weekend.
But Corrigan knows what his boys can do - and he insists he will encourage them to play in open, expansive fashion.
“The game at senior level is going to revert back that way anyway so it’s good experience for these lads,” he says.
“Even with Fermanagh, I have been studying them closely and we are leaving more men in attack, trying harder to get more players up to get scores.
“You can defend all you like, and defence is so important, but you won’t win games without a good transition and finally the penny is dropping with managers all across the country, in all divisions.
“I know when they meet Dublin the temptation is to pull everyone back and I do firmly believe that Dublin are waiting in the long grass, but this year we should have Mayo back in the Super 8 series and I think we will have a cracking summer ahead.
“But hopefully we can have a super weekend first,” he smiled.
Masita All-Ireland Post Primary Schools 'A' Football Final (Hogan Cup)
St Michaels, Enniskillen v Naas CBS, Croke Park, 2.45pm (TG4)