Comparing Corcoran and Conor
NOW that he has become Mayo’s top scorer of all time, the question has been put to us on more than one occasion: is Conor Mortimer a better footballer than the man whose record he broke some weeks back?
How does the Shrule man rate in comparison with Joe Corcoran?
Sixty years from now will the talent of Conor Mortimer have become as indelibly captured in the minds of those who follow Mayo football as Corcoran’s is to those of his day?
The two are ages apart and the divide has been filled by an evolving game that, although managing to retain its amateur ethos, has assumed all the characteristics of professional sport.
In Joe Corcoran’s time there was no such professionalism, there were no managers, no U-21 competitions and no gym work in winter. All free kicks were taken off the ground.
There was less passing, and players in general were less fit.
Not that Joe Corcoran had ever to worry about practice.
“I never practised free-taking,” he told me once. “It just came to me. As my mother said, I had an eye for a ball. It was the same with golf, I could not practise. The practise I had was playing backs and forwards in Castlebar with the county squad.”
They’re taking the skill out of the game, he said, especially the free-taking skill. “Kicking the ball off the ground and over the bar is a skill on its own. Anyone can kick the ball out of their hands. That’s simple. It’s only damaging the game changing a rule like that.”
Joe’s football flowered during Mayo’s brief emergence from a barren spell. He won two Connacht championships and a National League medal. But the pleasure of playing in a senior All-Ireland final eluded him.
A national league medal is not among Conor Mortimer’s collection. But he has been to the All-Ireland well on a couple of occasions only to return empty-handed.
In 2004 he was favourite to finish the year as the leading scorer of the championship needing only four points to beat Mattie Forde of Wexford. But in the final Mortimer scored only one point of Mayo’s total of 2-9.
In 2006 recompense beckoned. A new bright era was about to dawn for Mayo football it seemed. But once more they found it impossible to cast off the bridesmaid’s cloak. And Conor Mortimer’s dream was crushed.
Both had their share of critics. Corcoran was insensitively dropped from an American trip in 1963, “at a time when I was playing my best football.”
Mortimer famously replied when he lost his place once: “They mightn’t win with me, but they won¹t win without me.”
On the field of play, their styles are as different as chalk and cheese.
The Ardnaree man was easy on either foot, and accurate most of the time. As a wing forward he was strong, and like all great players sometimes temperamental and off form.
Occasionally he took on too much, but the manner in which he could dodge through a defence and skip over tackles left opponents frequently grasping fresh air. That was his magic and it was exhilarating. Jinking Joe they called him.
Mortimer is more predictable and less exciting on the attack. Being at corner forward where he is more confined may have something to do with that. His left foot is his chief weapon and with it already this season he has nailed down 56 points for Mayo.
He is not as imaginative on the ball, nor as subtle, however. But he has at least one more chance to win an All-Ireland medal.
Joe has none.
Sligo shock us back to reality
SUDDENLY the focus changes! Sligo have thrown a spanner into the works, and the shock of their indomitable spirit continues to resonate around the country.
Galway in Pearse Stadium had been Mayo’s objective. The Tribesmen had accounted for Roscommon so brilliantly with a re-energised set-up that the big question was: could Mayo find the means to retain the Connacht title at Pearse Stadium?
Not for the first time have Sligo dampened so much expectation, and the manner in which they dismantled Galway’s re-invigorated side will leave plenty of questions to be asked of Mayo leading up to their semi-final with Leitrim on Sunday week.
The whole country will be wishing for Leitrim to repeat Sligo’s giant-killing act, and if they fail, there is still the chance that the big two of Connacht football will be peering through the back door for re-entry to the championship.
Thus that Sligo victory will have built up big interest from here to the Connacht final, and it will also have struck a blow for the underdog as the weaker counties all over the country begin to find new hope.
Despite previous warnings, Galway’s big win over Roscommon triggered too much complacency. They will have learned a lot from that defeat and once they recover from the shock still have enough talent to cause some surprises in the campaign ahead.
Roscommon will be hoping also for a big recovery after plumbing the depths against Galway. They are not as poor a team as they looked in that disaster at Hyde Park and while they have a mountain to climb they, too, are capable of picking up the threads and moving forward.
The question right now is: who from the province is destined to join Galway and Roscommon in the qualifiers? Are further surprises on the cards? Could it be that the two-so-called weak counties will contest a unique Connacht final?
Late PJ Loftus a loyal servant
NO greater tribute could have been paid a loyal servant of the GAA than his son to kick the winning score for his club a few hours after his father had passed away.
PJ Loftus would have appreciated the gesture from his son Alan who played in that league game as much for the love of his father as for the honour of Knockmore, the club to which they belonged.
And the poignancy of the moment when he scored the winning point over Crossmolina was not lost on those watching or on those who remember the sterling work of his father for Knockmore and for the GAA in general.
PJ Loftus personified the soul of the association. On men like him the GAA was founded and on the strength of their selflessness it prospered. Men who asked for nothing more in return than to watch the organisation they served mould characters of future generations.
PJ, who died at his home on June 2, was a native of Lahardane with whom he played his football before coming to live in Ballydearg where he and his wife Margaret reared a family of six sons and three daughters.
He joined the local club and served it diligently becoming treasurer and secretary, and having the satisfaction of seeing its teams grow through the ranks and fully flower in a bunch of county senior titles.
He was clubman of the year in 1994, and he later served as chairman of the Ladies County Board where he was widely respected for his zeal and impartiality.
P.J’s was a familiar face at gates around the county where he greeted people with a smile and a kind word, and the big crowds that turned out for the removal, and his burial in Cloghans Cemetery, were testimony of the popularity of one of nature’s gentlemen.
Peace to his kindly soul.
Just a thought …
WE have learned from bitter experience that you don’t write off Kerry, but watching Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin being hauled off on Sunday suggests the Kingdom is not the force it once was.