Podcast: Gweedore up against modern club football's top force in Corofin
AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final: Corofin (Galway, holders) v Gweedore (Donegal) (Carrick-on-Shannon, 1.30pm Saturday)
PERSPECTIVE changes perceptions. Gweedore will desperately want to reach the decider in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day. There'll probably even be tears shed, win or lose – but they'll be about a friend, not football.
Gweedore have already made history by becoming arguably the first standalone Donegal club to win the Ulster SFC (St Joseph's in 1975 was the result of a merger between teams from Ballyshannon and Bundoran). They'd love to add another chapter to this season's tale by dethroning classy Corofin.
However, the recent death in a road accident of clubman Micheal 'Roycee' Roarty – one of four young men killed - reminds all that there's more to life than sport, much more.
The Donegal men will need all the inspiration they can derive to defeat the strongest force in club football of recent times.
Dr Croke's of Killarney, who contest the other semi-final against Mullinalaghta of Longford, might dispute that, but Corofin have won two of the last four All-Irelands, compared to the Kerrymen's sole success of recent years in 2017.
Admittedly, Dr Croke's beat Corofin well in the national semi-final two seasons ago – but that was the Galway kingpins' last Championship defeat.
There's hope for Gweedore, of course.
Mountbellew/Moylough came agonisingly close to shocking Corofin in the 2018 Galway Final, only a last-gasp Micheal Lundy point rescuing a draw and a replay, which the favourites won by six, for their sixth consecutive county crown.
From those, they've garnered four Connacht championships, losing only (twice) to the might of Mayo's Castlebar Mitchel's, in the 2013 provincial semi-final and the 2015 decider.
It clearly takes a very good team to beat Corofin.
Happily, Gweedore are a very good team.
They have that classic, clichéd blend of youth and experience. The latter comes from county stars past and present, Kevin Cassidy and the McGee brothers, Eamon and Neil.
The younger talent includes Odhran Mac Niallais, Daire O Baoill, Cian Mulligan, and Michael Carroll, and Odhran McFadden-Ferry.
O Baoill and Mulligan in particular have searing pace, while Mac Niallais, Cassidy, and Eamon McGee offer tremendous tactical flexibility and game awareness.
Start your sporting weekend on the winning team.
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Obviously Corofin boast top class footballers too, including Ian Burke, Lundy, Liam Silke, Gary Sice, Michael Farragher, and the vastly experienced defender Kieran Fitzgerald. Kieran Molloy is another making a name for himself, the exciting attacking wing-back having impressed for club and university (NUI Galway), set to play for the latter in the Sigerson Cup semi-finals tomorrow.
Unusually, a few Corofin men also featured for their county earlier this year, including 2018 Football Allstar Burke after recovering from a pre-Christmas rib problem. Molly, Silke, Michael Farragher, and Dylan Wall also turned out for the Tribesmen, with the blessing of manager Kevin O'Brien, who has bemoaned the long gap between the provincial final and this All-Ireland semi-final.
Corofin also have the extra experience of plenty of previous inter-provincial combat – but Gweedore belied their limited Ulster knowledge, having previously won Donegal way back in 2006.
They took notable scalps, including Crossmaglen and Scotstown in the provincial final, and have shown the ability to either grind out wins or blow teams away with attacking, goal-scoring football.
The demonstrated the former quality in dreadful playing conditions for the Ulster decider against a top quality Scotstown team including Allstar goalkeeper Rory Beggan, the Hughes brothers Darren and Kieran, and Monaghan forwards Conor McCarthy and Shane Carey.
Apart from that draw with Mountbellew/Moylough, Corofin largely cruised through Galway and Connacht, winning their other nine matches by an average margin of almost 12 points. Over the 10 games, Corofin conceded just four goals, and were good value for their four-point provincial final win over a Ballintubber team including Cillian and Diarmuid O'Connor and Alan Dillon. They outscored the Mayo champs by seven in the second half, 1-8 to 0-4.
Gweedore's desire and determination will be huge, of course. Cassidy, who was (in)famously excluded from Donegal's All-Ireland success of 2012, claims that, if offered the choice between an All-Ireland with club or county, "the club is the one you'd take."
Getting hands on the Andy Merrigan Cup could be a harder task than Donegal found winning 'Sam', especially as Dr Croke's of Killarney probably await in the final.
This could be the highest quality encounter witnessed in Leitrim from some time. Both sides have the ability to play fabulous, free-flowing football, although the prize on offer might curtail their openness.
Certainly both bosses will have been thinking hard about restricting their opponents' ability to run the ball from deep.
Cassidy is a very canny operator at full-forward, and offers the option as a strong target man, but Corofin probably have a stronger attack overall.
That may just swing this tie in their favour – but there'd be no great shock if Gweedore keep their winning run going.
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally, Laois).
AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final: Dr Croke's (Kerry) v Mullinalaghta (Longford)
MULLINALAGHTA may have already seen off one set of Croke's - but they'll know that ousting the Kerry version will be even harder.
The Killarney men won their fifth Munster crown in eight seasons by beating Clare's Milltown-Malbay by nine points, after thrashing St Finbarr's of Cork by 21 (with all of their 5-20 tally coming from play) and Tipperary's Moyle Rovers by 16.
The Longford outfit, under the guidance of new Cavan boss Mickey Graham, had to battle far harder to beat Rhode (Offaly), Eire Og of Carlow, and Dublin's Kilmacud Croke's.
Those tough tests may well stand to them, but the likelihood is that they'll be unable to contain the scoring power of opponents who can afford to start without Colm 'Gooch' Cooper.
Dr Croke's talent includes Fionn Fitzgerald and Gavin White, Johnny Buckley and Kieran O'Leary, and they must be strongly favoured to return to the scene of their 2017 triumph on St Patrick's Day.
Referee: Sean Hurson (Galbally, Tyrone).