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'That was the pivotal age' - the rise of Corofin's golden generation

Seven players from the 2012 minor team could start in Sunday’s All-Ireland club final.

RAY SILKE RECENTLY posted a picture of the Corofin squad from the 2012 Galway minor football county final match programme on Twitter. 

The Corofin side included his nephew Liam Silke, one of seven players who featured for the seniors in their recent All-Ireland semi-final win over Nemo Rangers.

That group of players are yet to lose a championship game within the county, while they’ve racked up seven Galway titles, five Connacht crowns and three All-Ireland club medals to boot. 

On Sunday, that crew are bidding to land the Andy Merrigan Cup for the fourth time since 2014, and third in succession. 

Surprisingly, they never dominated the underage ranks and only started to enjoy success at minor and U21 level. 

“We hadn’t won anything,” says Liam Silke. “We got to a few finals – we were in the Galway Feile final and we lost it. So that was our first proper county championship (to win).

“But it was a combination of my age group and the age group two years below us where there was four or five very good players from that, the likes of Kieran Molloy, Dylan Wall, Dylan McHugh and they hadn’t been playing with us.

“So I think it was when they came together that’s when we started being successful and we would have won three or four U21s after with the same group of players.”

Players in their late teens and early 20s are at most risk of falling away from the game. At that age the GAA often drops down their list of priorities as college, work, travel and social life can take precedence.

Silke believes those county titles they accumulated together helped Corofin retain the talented crew that went on to become key figures in the senior team. 

“Definitely. I think that’s kind of what happened to say the likes of Salthill-Knocknacarra and Barna. They would have been the teams beating us in the U16 and before that, before we’d been successful.

“So it definitely helped us stay together, that was the pivotal age where you need to stay playing. The success just held us together and brought us on as players.”

corofin-team The Corofin team stand for the national anthem. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

They all came through the hands of gifted underage coach Frank Morris, while his son Dave remains a key figure in Kevin O’Brien’s backroom team. 

“Dave would have still been playing when I was underage so it would have been Frank a lot. It’s just their sheer commitment and dedication to Corofin. Frank, he’d be out cutting the grass in Corofin for the pitches.

“It’s not just pure training, he’s dedicated to Corofin all-round. It’s those type of people in a club that really hold it together. Every player in the team would have been trained by Frank at some stage I think so, yeah he’s had a massive influence.

“I suppose it’s just started to be well-documented now how much an influence he has. Just as a trainer he’d be every focused on skill, kicking a ball, hook kick and everything like that. He’s just a massive, massive person in Corofin GAA.” 

Over the past couple of seasons, Silke was forced to combine Sigerson Cup and club duties at this time of the year.

While Kieran Molloy (NUIG) and his younger brother Darragh (UCD) had to choose between club and college due to the doubling up of fixtures, Liam is pleased to have only Corofin to worry about.

“I’m not playing this year due to not being eligible because I’ve been in college six years,” said the Galway defender.

“So I’m kind of happy in one way, say if I was trying to be playing last weekend with an All-Ireland final coming up I’m better off being able to just focus on the club.” 

Silke is nearing the end of a postgraduate degree in medicine, with 18 months left before he’s qualified. He hasn’t found combining his studies and football overly difficult so far.

“Just the fact I’m living in Dublin and trying to travel back to Galway. I’m not able to do post-graduate medicine in Galway so I had to travel for it.

“It’s just about timing really. Knowing what to prioritise at different times in the year. If I’ve exams coming up then I need to be able to prioritise studying. At the moment thankfully I’m just back a week or two so I’m able to prioritise football at this time of the year.

“I have a car. I’ll be able to drive anywhere if I need to go training. Thankfully I’ve been in Dublin so far, mostly. I think I will have a few weeks out the country coming up in the Spring time so hopefully I won’t be too far away from Galway.”

aib-gaa-all-ireland-club-championships-finals-media-day Liam Silke ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland club SFC final. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Silke finds himself on the scoresheet more than most corner-backs and he’s asked how he manages to ghost into scoring positions so often.

“Normally, let’s say if you’re starting a move I’d like to continue the run,” he explains. “It’s probably a timing thing in the game where players are getting tired and they’re not as likely to track.

“It’s probably a bit of luck as well just when the space opens up and in the moment to make that run. There’s not a lot of thought going into it. It’s just about, if you start a move to make a run and support the player you’re passing to. Every player would be trying to do that in the team.

“We’re all given a licence to attack on the team. It’s just about using that licence and being willing to go forward for that opportunity. Obviously it could backfire if a corner-forward hasn’t followed you and they’re left in and the ball gets turned over. If the opportunity arises you have to go for it.”

Corofin have won the last three All-Ireland finals by double digits, but Silke says there’s no guarantee they’ll click again on the big day. 

“I think it’s just been a combination of us performing very well and maybe the teams we were playing didn’t have the best day at the office. They wouldn’t have been happy with their performance. It’s just a combination of that.

“After the first day we would have been very confident about our abilities coming out here. It’s not saying that’s going to happen everytime you play in Croke Park, it will probably be a very different game on Sunday.

“We just have to approach each game as it is. They’re going to be different types of games and we’ve to focus on how we can get the best performance.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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