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Corofin manager Douglas Hurley. Photograph by John Kelly

Hurley knows importance of battle in middle third for Corofin

Heading in to this Sunday’s Munster Intermediate Club Final, Corofin manager Douglas Hurley is aware his side need a strong showing around the middle third if they are to cause an upset.

Corofin come up against a Na Gaeil outfit who certainly don’t lack in the midfield department with Stefan Okunbor, who impressed in Kerry’s comfortable McGrath Cup win over Limerick last week, Jack Barry and Diarmuid O’Connor all capable of dominating the aerial exchanges.

Hurley knows his side face a tough task in this sector as they come up against a fancied Na Gaeil outfit.

“They have three potential Kerry midfielders. If we can be 50-50 in that area of the field then we will be doing well. If we can win our own ball and try disrupt theirs then we have a chance. If we come out with any type of parity then we will be doing well.”

“There are a lot of areas they can hurt you. Each man has their own individual battle. If we come out on top in most of those then we will be in with a shout.”

Corofin have shown that they too possess a deep squad as they overcame the absence of Jamie Malone in the group stages as he worked his way back from an ankle injury sustained in Clare’s opening league game against Laois last May.

Meanwhile, Cilléin Mullins was only fit enough to come off the bench in the county final win over Kildysart. Mullins has struggled with a knee complaint as he missed out on their Munster semi final win against Newmarket.

In their provincial semi final success, Robin Mounsey stepped up to the plate to kick five points from play. Against Kildimo-Pallaskenry in the quarter final stage, Diarmuid Cahill was scorer in chief. In their unforgettable county final win, Cahill and Damien O’Loughlin stepped up to fire in a goal apiece in injury time.

“Guys like Damien O’Loughlin have been fantastic all year. Colm Rice has been brilliant too. Different lads have stood up when needed during the year and that’s what you want. You want lads putting their hands up.

“In the Newmarket game the Cahills (Diarmuid and Gearoid) were being well marked which freed (Robin) Mounsey up a bit. Our backs have stood out all year and have laid the platform for us to be able to attack games.”

Corofin are just 60 minutes away from history as they seek to become the first Clare side to win the Munster Intermediate Championship. The North Clare club reached the final in 2006, losing by a point to Kerry’s Ardfert, who subsequently went on to win the All Ireland title.

Kilmihil, Cratloe, St. Breckans (2010 and 2019) and St. Joseph’s Miltown Malbay have all come unstuck in the provincial decider since then. Kerry teams have won this competition 13 times in the 17 hostings of the competition.

However, Hurley does not believe that the burden of history will weigh heavy on this group heading in to Sunday’s clash.

“We came as close as any Clare side in ’06. We will try to go one better but we were as close as any Clare side have been. Kerry sides have dominated this competition and we are not going to shirk from that. We are just treating it like any other game and we know if we perform to our abilities then we will give ourselves a chance.”

He admits that training over the Christmas period has been difficult with the Omicron strain of the virus leading to some of the highest case numbers this country has experienced.

“It has been difficult. No doubt there has been problems. We have had our fair share of interruptions but the whole country has had problems with it. Touch wood nobody gets it now and we can just focus on the game.”

Character is something this Corofin team has shown in abundance throughout the Championship thus far. Their injury time heroics in the county final showed this but it has been further reinforced by their two provincial victories.

Against Kildimo-Pallaskenry, they looked on course for a shock defeat when Eoin Clancy was sent off. However, the Clare side showed their mettle to outscore their opponents by eight points to one in the final quarter. In their semi final against Newmarket, they trailed by three points but managed to win by 1-14 to 0-11 as their opponents finished with 14 men.

Although Hurley points out that his side need to improve their conversion rate and shot selection, he knows that his charges will not be lacking in belief.

“The key next day is to keep in touch. Against Kildimo (Pallaskenry) we were a man down but we kept plugging away. If we are anyways in the game then we will have belief.”

“If we are in front near the end then great but we will just go out and play our usual game. If we stay in the game as long as possible then we have a chance with the group we have. Our conversion rate and shot selection will have to improve from the last day.”

“Getting a hold of primary possession will be key. If we defend well and show what we can do up front then I’d back our fitness to get us home.”

by Ivan Smyth

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