The best way to measure a team’s depth is to look towards their substitutions bench and gauge what talent they can introduce. By that measuring, Dr Crokes stand above all else.
Among a host of other eye-catching names, stands Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper. The sight of him on the sidelines with 20 minutes remaining in a game must strike fear into Crokes’ opponents, but what is more influential to the club than his on-field presence, is the experience and knowledge he imparts on their younger players.
“When I first came into the Crokes senior team, Gooch gave me so much advice that any other fella might not have noticed. He maybe recognised things going on in a game that people might not have noticed,” recalled Gavin White.
“Gooch has an eye for the game that not many people do. He might be able to pick out things that you might not necessarily see or anyone else might not necessarily see and a small bit of advice might make the difference in a game or to your performance on a daily basis.
“From a performance point of view, he does his part. He comes on, he dictates the game whenever he can. After games or off the pitch before games, he’s a real leader. In team talks, he’d be very vocal in the dressing room. Trying to get fellas right for the club and get his team over the line.”
Crokes will need every player to do their bit if they are to come out on top against Corofin today. The match is already being billed as one of the best match-ups in recent years given that it is the 2017 champions against the current title holders.
They have been two of the most successful clubs over the past number of years and White is under no illusions as to the size of the challenge facing his team today.
“Corofin are an extraordinary team, in fairness to them. They’ve won multiple All-Irelands and you could say that it’s the 2017 versus 2018 champions, and who’s the best?”
“I suppose we’re just taking it from our own perspective – we’ve won an All-Ireland and want to win another one. I don’t really think anything else is coming to mind.
“We’re concentrating on ourselves and I don’t think we can do much more than that. Just bring what we can bring and concentrate on our own performance and see can we get over the line with that.”
The two sides are already well acquainted having met in the All Ireland semi-final in 2017 when Crokes comprehensively overcame the Galway side. White was a relatively new name on the squad back then and didn’t know what to expect from such an important clash.
“I remember getting a big bang in the first half and having a big, white plaster wrapped around my head. Yeah, a very, very tough game.
“Coming into it I suppose from my own point of view I didn’t really know what to expect. It was my first or second real season playing at senior level for Crokes and I’d been at games when Crokes lost semi-finals by the narrowest of margins so I knew it was going to be a massive challenge.
“I suppose when you get out there it’s a different scenario and doesn’t really play out the way you imagine it. But, yeah, we started that game very strongly. We controlled the tempo of the game and built from there.”
That year, Crokes overcame Slaughtneil in the final by two points to win only their second club All Ireland title. Many teams would bask in that glory for years to come but not Crokes. The Killarney side have worked extremely hard to get back to the All Ireland final and are as hungry as ever to lift the Andy Merrigan Cup.
“I suppose the natural thing after coming through the scenario we came through was to kind of leave it at that. We have proven that we wanted more. After 2017 we were straight back into it.
“There was club championship then and we went on to win it which was a massive one for us, beating South Kerry, because we would have lost a lot of finals to them down through the years.
“Fellas wanted to get that monkey off the back as well. That proved to us and to the county and country that we wanted more. When you get a taste of an All-Ireland it gets addictive and you want to get more of it.”