*Corofin’s Damien O’Loughlin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

REACHING THE last four of the Clare SFC in their first season back in the top tier was a case of coming back with a bang to the senior grade for Corofin, now they must replicate the act in order to maintain this level of progress.

Beaten Munster intermediate club finalists in 2021, Corofin recorded wins over St Joseph’s Miltown and Lissycasey in their return to the senior ranks which sealed their passage to a first semi-final berth in twenty seven years. It was here they learned some harsh lessons as Éire Óg kept the scoreless for the entirety of the second half on their way to recording a 1-11 0-03 win.

That was back in October and now with the dawn of a new campaign, joint manager Douglas Hurley admitted they are targeting a return to the knockout stages. “Anything less than getting out of the group will be seen as a step back. We were underdogs in most games last year, there is more pressure on us to perform this time round but hopefully it won’t bother the lads”.

“Our focus is to consolidate our status first and foremost, we got to a semi-final last year and we’d be hoping to be there or thereabouts to show progression, we want to reach the same place and go on, we’re looking for progression and performances at a minimum. This game this weekend could be the decider between the perceived weaker teams in a very tough group,” the director of estate agents DNG O’Sullivan Hurley added.

Assessing the progression, Hurley is fully of the view it will be dictated by their cohort of players between the age of 20 and 22. “Hopefully we will have Diarmuid Cahill available but we’re not sure, he’s 21, then we have Cillian McGroary who is U20 and was still only 19 playing for us last year, Marc O’Loughlin, Kevin Keane, Sean O’Brien and Gearoid Cahill are all still young but we’d be hoping the progression will come from them whereas the likes of Jamie Malone, Gearoid Kelly and Fionn Clancy are the guys upping the standards for us”.

Difficult groups is something Corofin are accustomed to. They defied the odds to be one of the three teams to emerge alongside Éire Óg and St Breckan’s last season which consigned St Joseph’s Miltown to the relegation series. “We got out of the group with one win last year, it’s quite possible the same could happen again but Doora/Barefield would be looking at it the same way. In our first year back at the top level we did struggle when it came to the more defensively set teams but our experience of playing in the Cusack Cup this year and the games from last year’s championship will stand to us and we will play smarter,” Hurley stated.

Relegation from the Cusack Cup means Corofin drop straight back down to competing in the Garry Cup for 2024 but the league campaign certainly had merit for the North Clare side. “We got the experience of being in the Cusack Cup but we were relegated. Ennistymon beat us to avoid going down and then ending up winning the competition, that shows just how tight the Cusack Cup was. Unduly going back down didn’t really bother us, we played a few games when we were missing over ten players so it is allowed us to blood lads in”.

For Saturday’s tie against St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield, they are likely to be without lively attacker Diarmuid Cahill who also missed Corofin’s opening encounter in the Clare IHC when they proved far too strong for O’Callaghans Mills.

Recording a 24 point win to commence the hurling campaign will lift Corofin as they switch their focus to the big ball. “They will be on a high, we have the couple of Crusheen and Ruan lads coming into the mix too but we’re only getting to focus solely on football now. Doora/Barefield have a crossover of five from the hurling, they could play a football challenge before the first round of the hurling whereas we can’t, we have 100 percent crossover, we can’t operate one without the other in Corofin, we can’t start planning properly until Tuesday night to lay things out to see how we’re fixed,” the joint manager explained.

There is a sense of familiarity between Corofin and The Parish. “They won’t fear us, we drew with them in the Garry Cup last year, they got the better of us in the intermediate final in 2020, we’ve played them at A level up along the underage grades, we both play a similar brand of football and have a similar age profile,” Douglas observed.

One win will likely do it for teams in Group 1 to progress to the knockout stages, achieving it in the opening round is an opportunity Corofin cannot afford to let slip through their grasp.

Corofin
Management: Douglas Hurley (joint manager), Geoff O’Sullivan (joint manager), Peadar O’Brien (selector), Donnchadh Kelleher (selector), Vincent McCarthy (selector), Eoin Keane (selector), Tony Kenny (analysis)
Captain: Gearoid Cahill
Key Player: Jamie Malone
One to watch: Marc O’Loughlin
Fresh blood: Josh O’Brien, Caoimhin O’Donovan, James Organ,
Departures Gate: N/A
Last year’s run: Reached first senior semi-final in 27 years, lost to Éire Óg by eleven points
Titles won: None
Schedule:
Round 1 vs St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield in Shannon on August 5th at 3pm
Round 2 vs Kilmurry Ibrickane on August 18th/19th/20th
Round 3 vs St Breckan’s on September 1st/2nd/3rd

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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