Shamrocks manager, Henry Shefflin
Learning from the master helped prepare rising Shamrocks star, Darragh Corcoran, for the biggest game of his career.
And the stylish defender produced an absolute stormer in the All-Ireland senior club final in Croke Park.
“The help and guidance I received from Henry Shefflin helped me hugely in preparing for the challenges of the game,” the 19-year-old insisted after he produced a dream performance and defended his corner brilliantly in the big showdown against Borris-Ileigh (Tipperary) on Sunday.
This time last year the Shamrocks corner-back was a flying wing-back on the St Kieran’s College team hot-footing his way to an All-Ireland colleges success.
Sunday’s was his first adult All-Ireland final, and he hurled his way through it with poise to earn the glowing praise of his mentor and team manager, Henry Shefflin.
“This time last year he was 18 years of age and he didn’t get any championship action,” Shefflin recalled. “He’s really developed. I was delighted when we were playing the Byrne Cup without the county players.
“Darragh was one of the players who stood up for us. He got his opportunity, took it and finished the year strongly.”
Young Corcoran admitted he didn’t know what to expect heading out to face Borris-Ileigh.
“I was very nervous going into the game, but once we hit the field it wasn’t too bad,” he smiled when we spoke in the Shamrocks dressing-room afterwards.
“The older lads looked after me, giving advice and talking to me through it. It was grand once the action started.”
He admitted it was almost frightening to look back on the road he has travelled in such a short time, but the team management and players were great to him, he insisted.
“The older players around me are very supportive,” Darragh said. “They help me all the time, offering encouragement and so on. They are a cracking bunch. Unreal.
“Henry (Shefflin) has unreal experience. He knew exactly what to say to me at the right time after every game. Before and after matches he chats with me, telling me how I went and what I have to improve on.
Darragh Corcoran in action with Shamrocks
“He has helped me big time along the way. It is a privilege to be able to get advice from a great hurler like Henry. I couldn’t be learning from anyone better.
“I think I took this game in my stride because they had me ready, physically and mentally.”
He admitted that his first appearance in Croke Park was a surreal experience.
“I just tried to play my own game,” he offered when asked about what was going through his mind in the heat of battle. “Joey (Holden) at full-back is unreal telling me where to go, who to cover and how to watch breaks. He is always helping me out.”
So then, how did he feel about the big day when Shamrocks hit a new mark and put All-Ireland wins together.
“I was just happy to get the win,” he said as a bright smile swept across his face.
Another of the high performing youngsters was Darren Mullen, who was in the shake-up for the man of the match accolade such was the strength of his second half showing.
“It was tough going,” was his summary of a tight, physical contest. “It took us a while to find our feet in the first half. We were down three or four points at one stage, but once we got going we began to pull them back.
“Borris-Ileigh were good, and they kept the pressure on us at the back. It was hard to hit the forwards with the ball because of that pressure. They were hitting hard around the middle third of the field. It was hard for us to find space to get the ball to the forwards.”
As ever, Shamrocks survived and maintained a remarkable run in the All-Ireland series by winning their eight final in nine attempts.
“I don’t know what makes it all happen,” Darren replied when asked was there a secret to the Shamrocks success story. “It is hard to describe. Winning is a habit. The word culture is thrown around a lot, but at the end of the day, we all grew up hurling and watching the best of lads in this club and we wanted to be like them.”
He recalled watching Henry (Shefflin), TJ (Reid), Mick (Fennelly) and so on play. Now he was lining out alongside some of them.
“These are the people we looked up to, the people we wanted to follow as players,” Darren continued. “Every game is just a game. That is the best way to approach it. We like to go out and play.
“Watching those lads was inspiring for me,” he added. “We looked up to them, and I presume other young lads in the club are looking up to players on this team now. We are trying to add to the tradition of the club.”
He insisted that the winning feeling was indescribable, and everyone was over the moon.
“We will take a few weeks to enjoy this success, and then after that we will try and go again,” he said when he signed off.
Roll of honour
All-Ireland club senior hurling championship is:
Shamrocks (8) - 1981, 1984, 1990, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2019, 2020 (beaten in one final in 1979).
Birr, Offaly (4) - 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003.
Portumna, Galway (4) - 2006, 2008, 2009, 2014.
Athenry, Galway (3) - 1997, 2000, 2001.
Blackrock, Cork (3) - 1972, 1974, 1979.
James Stephens, Kilkenny (3) - 1976, 1982, 2005.
St Finbarr’s. Cork (2) - 1975, 1978.
Sarsfields, Galway (2) - 1993, 1994.
Glen Rovers, Cork (2) - 1973, 1977.
Loughiel Shamrocks, Antrim (2) - 1983, 2012
Cuala, Dublin (2) - 2017, 2018.
Castlegar, Galway (1) -1980; Buffers Alley, Wexford (1) -1989; St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield, Clare (1) - 1999; Clarinbridge, Galway (1) - 2011; Newtownshandrum, Cork (1) - 2004; Na Piarsaigh, Limerick (1) - 2016; St Thomas, Galway (1) - 2013; Roscrea, Tipperary (1) - 1971; St Martin’s, Kilkenny (1) - 1985; Kilruane MacDonagh’s, Tipperary (1) - 1986; Borris-Ileigh, Tipperary (1) - 1987; Midleton, Cork (1) - 1988; Glenmore, Kilkenny (1) - 1991; Kiltormer, Galway (1) -1992; Sixmilebridge, Clare (1) - 1996.
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