NIALL Corcoran is the one who got away. Perhaps, given the abundance of underage hurling talent in Galway in the first decade of the new millennium – the county has won four All-Ireland minor titles since 2000 – it’s inevitable that talent will slip through the net. After all, they can’t all cut it at senior.
But how is it that Meelick/Eyrecourt man Corcoran – who won a minor All-Ireland with Galway and represented his county of birth twice at U-21 level – will line-out at corner-back for Dublin this Saturday evening, to do battle against his native county, and his friends and former teammates, in the Leinster semi-final?
“I suppose it’s probably just the way it fell,” said the 28-year-old after a training session with his adopted county in Parnell Park on Tuesday night.
He was part of the 2000 All-Ireland minor winning team, managed by John Hardiman, the current Galway selector, and soldiered alongside some of his opponents next Saturday like Tony Óg Regan, Damien Hayes, Ger Farragher, Adrian Cullinane, Shane Kavanagh and Joe Gantley; and had two seasons with the county U21s, again under Hardiman.
Then in October 2007, Corcoran was one of a panel of about 60 lads brought in for winter training under the then Galway senior manager, Ger Loughnane. “I don’t think I ever trained so hard – a lot of it was just physical stuff for three months . . . it was tough going,” he recalled.
Then in January or February, having played just part of an inter-county challenge match, and never having got a chance at representing his county competitively at the highest level, Corcoran (and others) was dropped. “We had a meeting where names were all called out, and my name wasn’t – I hadn’t made the cut. I was 25 at that stage and thought I hadn’t made it, that’s it. You’d be thinking it’s getting late in the day and that it could be my last chance.”
It wasn’t. His chance would come – but not with Galway.
Corcoran was completing a four year Business Studies and Sports Management Degree in Athlone, through which, he heard about and subsequently secured a games promotion officer role with the Dublin County Board. In 2008, he made the transfer from his home club to Kilmacud Crokes, which was tough.
“Transferring from Meelick/Eyrecourt was the hardest decision I’ve had to make. My best friends were playing with the club. I’d played with them all my life. I’d two brothers playing with them. I thought long and hard about it. I talked to friends and family. My dad said ‘if it’s what you want to do, it’s what you want to do – go for it’. My mam was delighted because it meant I didn’t have to be travelling (up and down to training in Galway) the whole time . . . the motorway wasn’t the way it is now.”
Then came a call from Tommy Naughton, Dublin manager before Anthony Daly took charge, who asked him to a few training sessions. “I went along but I wasn’t thinking of playing for Dublin – it never crossed my mind”. Not until Dublin picked up some injuries in defence, that is, and he was catapulted in for the Leinster Championship opener against Westmeath, and he’s been a permanent fixture since, nailing down the corner-back position.
If last year’s championship exit at the hands of Antrim in the All-Ireland was his career low-point – “that defeat really hurt for a long time,” he said – winning the league final and bridging a 70 year gap for the capital against Kilkenny was one of the highs.
The change in fortunes, from losing to minnows to conquering the Cats, is attributed to several factors and “just a lot of small things coming together at the right time” like younger players coming through, a more ‘professional’ approach to training and preparation, experience, the ghost of the Antrim loss, more serious competition for places, the Anthony Daly factor.
He reckons the recent battle against Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final, where Dublin won by just four points, was the ideal preparation for their showdown with Galway – Offaly were the Alka-Seltzer that cured any hangover from the League final success. “If any team brings you down to earth it’s Offaly, they’re a very difficult championship team to beat as Galway found out last year . . . it certainly got the League final out of our system.”
Article Source: GalwayNews.ie