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'They're a traditional power, they've been bred on winning All-Irelands down there'

Gary Sice and Corofin will battle with Nemo Rangers for All-Ireland glory on St Patrick’s Day.

ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON, five members of the Corofin squad are hoping to win their third national trophy at Croke Park since 2015.

AIB GAA All Ireland Senior Football and Senior Hurling Club Championship Finals Media Day Gary Sice was speaking at the AIB GAA All Ireland Senior Football and Senior Hurling Club Championship Finals Media Day Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Corofin were last crowned All-Ireland club champions three years ago, while Michael Farragher, Liam Silke, Gary Sice, Micheal Lundy and Ian Burke were all part of Galway’s Division 2 final success over Kildare last April.

Corofin face Cork giants Nemo Rangers in the St Patrick’s Day decider as they search for a third All-Ireland title in the club’s history.

“Two good footballing sides,” says Sice. “They won’t fear us at all. They’ve come through the hard side – they’ve beaten Crokes, beaten Slaughtneil. So, we’re very aware of the challenge ahead of us.”

Sice has since retired from inter-county duty, but the other four could be involved in Galway’s Division 1 league decider against Dublin at HQ on 1 April, while Kieran Molloy and Jason Leonard may also come into Kevin Walsh’s plans after strong club campaigns.

At 33, it’s conceivable this will be Sice’s last game at Croke Park – unless Corofin make it back to the biggest game in club football again.

Gary Sice celebrates with Johnny Heaney Sice celebrates with Johnny Heaney after Galway's Division 2 final win last April Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Galway kingpins have traditionally struggled at the All-Ireland semi-final stage, winning just two of their previous seven semi-finals, but they’ve been victorious in both their final appearances – in 1998 and 2015.

“It’s just satisfying to get over the semi-final thing,” Sice continues.

“I’ve lost three. So that tells you how hard it is to win an All-Ireland semi-final. The three I’ve lost have been to (eventual) All-Ireland champions. They’re tight margins.

“Once you get to the All-Ireland semi-final stage in club – be it hurling or football – there are tight margins involved and we were glad to just get out of there alive and get our shot at Croke Park again.

“It wasn’t the best game of football in the world to watch, I’m sure, but for us, it was satisfying to get out of there alive, yeah. I don’t know if we only conceded two points from play or something with 14 men for the entire game – that’s not bad.

“It was very satisfying to see that we could do that side of it as well when we had to. It was good to get out of there.”

There’s been a significant evolution in the Corofin team since they last lifted the Andy Merrigan Cup, with five new players coming into the starting 15 in the intervening years.

“We’ve had new personnel in but a lot of that personnel was around in 2015 as well. They were just younger. They’ve picked up a lot of experience between county finals and Connacht finals, losing has done no harm either.

Cian O'Connor clashes with Gary Sice Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Unfortunately, it’s a necessary experience and we’ve had a bit of that. Crokes last year was a big disappointment for us – we didn’t perform. Hopefully, the young lads can bring that pain with them and bring it to Croke Park, that’d be great.”

They face the most decorated team in club football this weekend. Nemo have seven All-Ireland titles to their name and Saturday will mark their 11th appearance in the final.

As a club, Nemo have tremendous know-how and that extends to the sideline where manager Larry Kavanagh has played in four All-Ireland club finals himself, winning two and losing two.

“Based on their manager alone, he has (two) All-Ireland clubs. That experience will feed down through the group. They’ve shown that against Crokes and they’ve shown that against Slaughtneil. There won’t be an issue there.

“I don’t think they scored for 20 minutes against Slaughtneil and they never panicked. Then they kicked five in a row in three minutes, I think it was. So, there’s no issue there with experience – that won’t come into it.

“I think it’ll just be a good game of football between two footballing is sides. They’re a traditional power, they’ve been bred on winning All-Irelands down there. They know what it’s about. I don’t think the experience thing will be any issue at all.

Paul Kerrigan celebrates at the final whistle Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“They’re not in the business of looking over the wall at anybody else. Their wall is the one to be looking over. They’ve the most All-Irelands and they operate like that. They’re a very good footballing side and they’re an example for any club in Ireland of how to do things.

“They keep coming back. That tells you where they’re at. They’re a superpower in the club game, themselves and Crossmaglen would be the two that would stand out.”

Corofin have plenty of experience too and their manager Kevin O’Brien was a player for their maiden victory in 1998.

“We’d be very lucky. We’ve had former players come back in. Kevin O’Brien has an All-Ireland club medal. He was here in ’98. I think that’s how you build a tradition. That’s how you build a desire.

“I grew up watching my uncle play, he won an All-Ireland here. Most of the lads on the team have some relation to somebody who has been here and done this. That’s how you build it, I suppose. It’s nice to have that tradition. Nemo are no different.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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