By Peter Sweeney
Corofin manager Stephen Rochford hailed the influence of veteran defender Kieran Fitzgerald after the Galway side’s All-Ireland club football final win.
Barely out of his teens, Fitzgerald was part of the Galway team that won Sam Maguire in 2001.
Now, a decade and a half later as one of the elder statesmen on the panel, the 34-year-old offered leadership from his full-back role.
“Look, Kieran is the heartbeat of that group,” said Rochford. “I mean, he’s the oldest man there, you’re looking back at the early 2000s with Galway.
“There are a couple of different stories there - corner-back Ciaran McGrath with a double leg-break two years ago and maybe never going to play football again. There are always stories like that in a club situation.
“I’m delighted for each and every one of them for the way they came out. Kieran, very much a leader and he’s been captain of the team for many years. This year we looked to change it up and I’m really delighted for him.”
"They’re such a great group to work with, there are such great footballers from numbers one to 38 on the panel" - Stephen Rochford
Corofin were far too good for Slaughtneil at Croke Park, beating them by ten points in a comfortable victory.
It’s their second All-Ireland club title, coming 17 years after their first success in 1998.
It was also Rochford’s second All-Ireland title - the Mayo man won one in 2001 with his own club Crossmolina Deel Rovers.
“I think as a player you feel you have a degree of control,” he said, explaining the differences involved with being outside the white lines on match day.
“As a manager you have to relinquish that control half an hour before the game and trust that the guys will go out and execute the agreed plan. Thankfully they did it and they’ve done it in the ten games of the championship.
“They’re such a great group to work with, there are such great footballers from numbers one to 38 on the panel, it makes my job an awful lot easier.”
Slaughtneil came into this game as underdogs, but the way they under performed was a surprise and their ten-point defeat was a massive disappointment for the Derry and Ulster champions.
“When Corofin got into top gear we didn’t compete with them,” said selector John Joe Kearney, speaking on behalf of manager Mickey Moran. “We didn’t win the battle at midfield - a very important part of Gaelic football. All the breaks seemed to go their way.
“We got off to a good start; maybe should have had a penalty. I’ll have to have a closer look at it. If we’d got that you never know how things might have gone but on the balance of the 60 minutes football Corofin were by far the better team today.”