COOLDERRY are sixty minutes away from a first ever AIB All-Ireland Club SHC Final appearance and if their slick, skilful forwards strike form against Galway kingpins Gort at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds on Saturday (throw-in 2pm) then there is no reason why they can’t set up a St Patrick’s Day showdown with Loughgiel Shamrocks or Na Piarsaigh.
Writing in the ‘Connacht Tribune’ after Gort overcame Clarinbridge in the Galway county final last November, former Offaly and Galway manager John McIntyre wrote, “Aggressive Gort carry too much fire for champs.”
He used words like ‘highly tenacious’ and ‘robust’ to describe the Gort performance and you can be sure Coolderry will also be subjected to a ferocious physical onslaught and how they plan to counteract this will be crucial.
Referee John Sexton, who has a habit of being fussy with the whistle, will also have a big role to play as will underfoot conditions.
In their ten games prior to Saturday, Offaly GAA / Bridge House Hotel senior hurler of the year award winner Damien Murray tallied 2-54, Eoin Ryan (6-21), Brian Carroll (0-37) and Cathal Parlon (4-22), and if this quartet are on song and given a decent quality supply, they will punch holes in and unhinge a Gort rearguard that features team captain Andy Coen at corner back.
Coen landed a magnificent point from a pressure free towards the end of the Galway county final and his determination epitomised Gort’s never-say-die attitude.
Mark McMahon and Brian Regan occupy the central defensive positions and Regan, who experienced difficulties marking Clarinbridge’s Mark Kerins, will have his hands full on this occasion also as he attempts to curtail Coolderry play-maker Barry Teehan.
Gort goalkeeper Peter Cummins went off injured during their county final success but he is expected to line out against Coolderry as is his younger brother Richie, who missed some of Gort’s recent challenge games.
Richie is a canny customer if given the latitude but Alan Corcoran should be able to put the shackles on him, while at full forward, Gort have former Galway senior Ollie Fahy and his tussle with Trevor Corcoran will be fascinating.
Corcoran has been an unsung hero in Coolderry’s march to a historic first Leinster title and he’ll have to be on his game against Fahy who may have lost some of his pace, but none of his guile or vision to pick out a pass.
Aidan Harte was man of the match in the Galway final scoring 0-5 from centre forward even though he wore the number 12 jersey. Gerry Quinn is a useful free taker and he racked up 0-7 against Clarinbridge, while Paul Killilea is a tall, physically imposing target man (similar to Coolderry’s Martin Corcoran) for Cummins’ puck-outs.
Sylvie Og Linnane was chosen at left half back for the Galway final but he started at mid-field. Son of the revered Sylvie who captained Gort to their 1981 county final win and won All Stars in 1985, ’86 & ‘88, he also has two brothers in the panel – Tadgh & Darragh.
Sylvie Og possesses much of his father’s tenacity and considering how Sylvie and the late Pat Carroll had many ding-dong tussles during the 80’s on the inter-county arena, isn’t it coincidental how their sons go head-to-head in a huge club battle on Saturday.
Kevin Brady and Kevin Teehan are likely to form Coolderry’s mid-field partnership and considering how well they fared against Ballyboden St Enda’s and Oulart-the-Ballagh, they are well capable of eclipsing Sylvie Og and Jason Grealish. Brady has improved his distribution and the one thing about back-to-back Offaly champions Coolderry is that they are playing to a defined game-plan and there is far greater maturity about them.
Joe Brady, flanked by Brendan O’Meara and David King, are a formidable half back trio and if Gort can’t find a way to bypass Brady and disrupt his influence, then they won’t be progressing to a second All-Ireland Final, their first since 1984.
Both Coolderry and Gort suffered one defeat during the group series of their respective county championships and both possess a penchant for scoring goals, although remarkably Gort didn’t find the twine in their county final win. The prize at stake is great and expect there to be no quarter asked or given. The verdict is difficult to call however if Coolderry’s forwards can do the business then they get the nod to shade it.