Former Mayo boss, Stephen Rochford, believes Sunday’s AIB All Ireland senior club football final between Dr Crokes and Corofin will be one of the highest quality finals in years.
With the exception of the 2017 final between Dr Crokes and Slaughtneil, the club finals over the past number of year’s have been one-sided affairs. Corofin defeated Nemo Rangers by 15 points last year while in 2016, Castlebar Mitchels fell to a 13-point defeat at the hands of Ballyboden St Endas.
Rochford points to the 2013 club final as the last time we have witnessed a real tug-of-war and believes this years final can match, if not exceed, the excitement of that final.
“I think it certainly has the potential to be the highest quality of finals in a long time. 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 them two of them kicked in injury time. It’s going to be really tight.”
Rochford, who is currently involved with the Donegal set-up, has an invested interest in this final, having managed Corofin from 2013 to 2015 during which they secured three county titles, one Leinster crown and the All Ireland title. He insists that the winning culture developed by the club is as a result of their collective pride in what they do.
“What I got to know within the club is, firstly they’ve got a tradition now going back to 98. They’ve got a real sense of want, players aspire to be part of the senior team. 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, and also a high-quality team.
“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.”
They may have won last year’s title by a sizeable margin but Corofin will face a much tougher challenge against the Kerry champions on St Patrick’s Day. Crokes have racked up incredible scorelines throughout the championship, putting 5-20 past St Finbarr’s in the Munster club semi-final while they also defeated Milltown Malbay by nine points in the provincial final.
In fact, their forward until has been so potent that they have been able to spring Colm Cooper from the bench as an impact sub.
With two sets of formidable attacks, Rochford highlights the defence as a vital factor in this weekend’s game.
“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”, Rochford stated.
“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.”
Having extended their sponsorship of both Club and County for another five years in 2018, AIB is pleased to continue its sponsorship of the GAA Club Championships for a 29th consecutive year. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB GAA & Camogie Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.