Beast from the West shows county sides how game should be played

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES - COLM O’ROURKE

ALONG harsh win­ter drags into spring. When play­ers wake up for an All-Ire­land fi­nal they hope for good con­di­tions. Yes­ter­day, there was no kind­ness in the air and play­ers could have been is­sued with long johns, woolly hats and gloves to keep out the bit­ing cold. The small crowd de­served bet­ter too amid all the counter-at­trac­tions but at least they were re­warded with a game of skill which was a tes­ta­ment as to what the GAA is re­ally about.

The county jug­ger­naut has not stran­gled th­ese clubs. Many in­ter-county man­agers would def­i­nitely have a seizure at the style of play too. Play­ers ac­tu­ally kicked the ball.

Gary Sice lit up the game with a bril­liant goal af­ter seven min­utes. He had no thought of tak­ing an easy point when the chance came, he just buried it in the cor­ner. At that stage Co­rofin were play­ing as if they were re­ally en­joy­ing the oc­ca­sion. At one time I counted 10 Co­rofin play­ers at­tack­ing in­side the Nemo ‘45’, and the pace and move­ment of the Gal­way club was cut­ting Nemo open. Mike Far­ragher was drift­ing out, win­ning ball in the air and on breaks, and the sup­ply meant Martin Far­ragher and Michael Lundy were mak­ing hay in the bit­ing cold.

Then, af­ter 20 min­utes, came one of the great­est team goals ever seen in Croke Park as Co­rofin took the pa­tient route with a string of passes be­fore a del­i­cate fin­ish by Far­ragher.

Even at that stage it looked all over, with Co­rofin 11 up and free-wheel­ing. By half-time they had enough scored to win most games so the sec­ond half was purely play­ing out time.

That first half should be taped and dis­trib­uted to ev­ery club and school. It is what Gaelic foot­ball is sup­posed to be about. Skill, speed, great foot-pass­ing and quick changes in di­rec­tion us­ing both foot and hand.

Co­rofin trusted their backs to mark their men too. Of course there was of­ten a util­ity back but there was no mass de­fence and at all times there were three or four for­wards stay­ing in their po­si­tions. A mes­sage there for the Gal­way se­nior side who have sim­i­lar qual­ity for­wards who spend a lot of time de­fend­ing.

With Co­rofin on all-out at­tack, it meant Nemo’s most dan­ger­ous for­wards, Luke Con­nolly and Paul Ker­ri­gan, were squeezed out­field and Tomás Ó Sé, who dom­i­nated the semi-fi­nal, was not ex­ert­ing any­thing like the same in­flu­ence. Ó Sé was sub­sti­tuted later. It was prob­a­bly his last game in this fa­mous arena. He does not owe any­one any­thing, one of the great­est foot­ballers in one of the great­est foot­balling fam­i­lies in any code.

There was a very stark dif­fer­ence to the at­tack­ing of both sides too. Co­rofin at all times wanted to get men in front of the ball while Nemo played like most county sides, over and back across the pitch. And they did not kick as of­ten or as ac­cu­rately as Co­rofin.

As the sec­ond half dragged on — and that is the word — the Cork men needed goals and Co­rofin had num­bers across the half-back line, and Nemo never looked likely to break them down. It meant that Co­rofin played out the match com­pletely on their own terms and the spec­ta­tors could drift away to check on what was hap­pen­ing in Twick­en­ham.

Ev­ery player dreams of play­ing in an All-Ire­land fi­nal and hav­ing the game of their life. It hap­pened yes­ter­day for nearly all the Co­rofin play­ers. Great play­ers play their best on the big­gest day and on the big­gest stage. They are great be­cause they can har­ness the en­ergy of the day, play with calm­ness while op­er­at­ing in a dif­fer­ent zone where all tur­moil is tamed. Others — like the chal­lenge match stars — are over­come with fear, nerves and a lack of real con­fi­dence. As a re­sult, they seize up. Not Co­rofin play­ers and it is a trib­ute to ev­ery­one in­volved with the club, that like a lot of the win­ners in Chel­tenham, they were trained to the minute.

For a great club like Nemo this was a very dis­ap­point­ing day. They ran out of road and never pro­duced any­thing like the form of the Mun­ster fi­nal or the ex­tra-time per­for­mance against Slaugh­t­neil. His­tory beck­oned for them but that must wait for an­other day. Mur­phy’s Law ap­plied yes­ter­day. Ev­ery­thing that could go wrong did go wrong and on days like this there are no ex­pla­na­tions for a poor per­for­mance. Nemo were hit by the Beast from the West, an an­i­mal that was not for tam­ing yes­ter­day.

Co­rofin also struck a blow for a re­turn to a game where there is a mix­ture of foot and hand­pass­ing and skill trumps ev­ery­thing. This was a bad day for Nemo and for those who had hoped to see a real con­test. Yet there is still joy in watch­ing the old game played like this.

The county jug­ger­naut has not stran­gled th­ese clubs

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