Reigning county and Connacht champions Corofin begin their bid for five successive county senior football titles – and their 19th in all – with a tricky assignment against Cortoon Shamrocks in the first round of the 2017 championship at Tuam Stadium on Sunday evening.
Kevin O’Brien once again returns as manager of his native Corofin and both he and his squad will be anxious to get the show back on the road after their All-Ireland club semi-final defeat to eventual champions Dr Crokes of Kerry in the Spring.
Remarkably, O’Brien is just one of four senior club football managers to return with the same side for 2017 – with no less than 16 of Galway’s 20 senior clubs now under new management for the current campaign.
That is a significant turnover, but it does possibly represent the huge demand on time involved along with the pressure that club managers come under nowadays to get results over the season.
The other three managers who return this year are Terry O’Regan (St James’), Gabriel Naughton (Caltra), and Val Daly (Salthill/Knocknacarra), three clubs who certainly seem to be benefiting from a stable structure in their senior management set-up.
With only a small number of clubs retaining their manager, it does beg the question are clubs doing enough in terms of their development and vision to chase down Corofin and a championship? Is the belief there?
That said, there have been some astute appointments among the other clubs. Mountbellew/Moylough have turned to former Corofin player and ex-Moycullen manager, Michael Donnellan; Westmeath’s Dessie Dolan Snr, the former Leitrim boss, is now manager in Milltown; ex-Roscommon U-21 boss Mark Dowd has gone to Cortoon Shamrocks; and the great Ja Fallon takes charge of his native Tuam Stars.
It remains to be seen if any of those, however, can plot the downfall of Corofin and their ‘Drive for Five’.
St Michael’s v Leitir Móir
(Pearse Stadium, 7.45pm)
Managed by Williamstown native Noel Connaughton, 2014 county finalists St. Michael’s are trained by Dave Mullally and jointly captained by Greg Rogan and Brian Madden. Selectors are Pat Madden and Shanon McIhinney.
They are down a number of players from last year’s side which survived a relegation scare, including Dave Cunnane, who played with New York against Sligo in the opening round of the Connacht SFC championship, Colm Tummon, Eamonn O’Donnell and Ronan Downey (abroad) and Peter Ruane and Eoghan Tummon (long term injuries). In addition, Mairtin Cullinane has retired from senior. That leaves Eddie Hoare and Eamonn Brannigan to lead the charge.
Meanwhile, Máirtín Breathnach has taken over at the helm from Peter Sullivan at Naomh Anna, Leitir Móir and his backroom set-up comprises of trainer Matt Lawless and selectors Ciarán Ó Flatharta, Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, Stiofán Ó Ceallaigh and Micheál Ó Ceallaigh. Galway U-21 star Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh, who heads off to the United States in the coming weeks, Antaine Ó Gríofa and team captain Ferdia Breathnach are their key players.
Verdict: St Michael’s
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.