When Corofin hosted Four Roads this year in the All-Ireland FÚile na nGael competition, little did they ever contemplate that the clubs would meet again so soon and at such a critical stage of the championship season.
Back in the FÚile weekend in June, both clubs simply had their eye on county titles although admittedly from totally different perspectives. Four Roads were intent on completing a three-in-a-row of county senior titles while Corofin were hoping to avoid a three-in-a-row of intermediate final losses and finally make the leap to senior for the first time.
However, Clare supporters’ familiarity with Four Roads doesn’t simply end with their FÚile links and no, before you say it, it has nothing to do with Big Tom’s greatest hit either, a song that has probably haunted the residents of Glenamaddy ever since. No, the connection stems from the Roscommon side’s meeting with Kilmaley in the All-Ireland semi-final equivalent only two years ago. You would be forgiven for not remembering it as the game was hardly a classic, with the Clare champions strolling to a 4-11 to 0-03 victory that in hindsight was of scant preparation for the final.
However, how much information Corofin can extract from that game is questionable as there were mitigating circumstances for the one-sided result that November day in Gurteen. Clare camogie was on a high at the time, having just won the All-Ireland junior championship, with three Kilmaley players in the squad as well as four on the county minor panel that also reached the All-Ireland decider in early September. That buoyancy plus the first-half dismissal of Four Roads’ county senior Donna Kelly ensured that Kilmaley cantered through their challenge but more significantly, the inequality in the championship was perhaps as pertinent to the final scoreline.
Kilmaley were the Clare senior champions and realistically should not have been in the same competition as the Roscommon senior champions when viewing it from a neutral camogie viewpoint. That format has since been restructured to provide a more level playing field and therefore after two successive losses, Four Roads finally got past the semi-final stage to meet the Clare intermediate champions, Corofin.
It makes this a difficult game to judge but in general terms, Corofin will go into this game with nothing to lose. The north Clare side have endured far more stringent tests along the way than their Roscommon counterparts and that alone has instilled a great bond within the camp than no domestic championship ever could. In contrast, Four Roads, despite an average winning margin of 15 points, don’t really know how they will react when really put to the pin of their collar. Outside of their own county final against rivals Athleague, they have pretty much had it their own way against London side Tara and Meath’s Kilmessan, hardly world beating camogie regions in the broader scheme of things. In fact, their only real challenge to date came in the form of Galway intermediate champions Sarsfields in the Connacht Intermediate decider but that ended in defeat.
Corofin may not have the All-Ireland series experience of their opponents but on the flip side they also are without the baggage caused by repeated defeats at the business end of the competition that Four Roads carry. Momentum has carried Corofin this far and as a once-off experience, they are fresher and not as war weary as their opponents and will be more than willing to give it everything in order to create further history for both club and county.
While 12 of the current Four Roads side also played
against Kilmaley in 2008 and 11 represented the county in their All-Ireland Junior A (Nancy Murray) victory last year, Corofin also have their aces in the pack in the form of All-Ireland Junior title winner from 2008, Claire Commane who has been their stand-out performer in recent years as well as rising star Niamh O’Dea who is surely one of the country’s finest dual talents.
Corofin certainly didn’t expect to make it this far. A long awaited county intermediate title was essentially their Holy Grail when setting out at the start of the year after two successive heartbreaking final defeats. However, now that they have made it this far, they will be determined to finish the job, no matter what their opponents or indeed the weather throws at them.