MORE than half a century has passed since he jinked into our consciousness. And there he has remained, a towering figure, distinctive and eccentric, the standard by which those who followed him have been measured.
Sadly, Joe Corcoran took leave of us last week. But the memories he left will have sent a warm glow through all who watched him weave his way through defences. His was the era of Morley and Langan and Prendergast and Carey and Nealon, a team of wide-ranging abilities but fated never to reach the promised goal.
Corcoran would have graced any Mayo team of any era. It is no disrespect to the accomplishments of Cillian and company to suggest that the Ardnaree man would have enhanced their endeavours. Would have brought his feathery touches and originality, to a game that for all its progress lacks the crowning quality that the likes of Corcoran had to offer.
Joe was an Ardnaree man and had never kicked a ball until he was fourteen years of age. It was to golf he was first attracted. His father would bring him to the golf course in the evenings. He had three clubs — a putter, a four iron and a wedge. And around the greens he had him putting and chipping. At that he excelled. And would one day become a plus handicapper.
His football interest budded when his mother handed him a new pair of football boots, bought by one of her work colleagues who wanted him to play football. And it wasn’t long until people were raving about this teenager with uncommon ability.
He was a key player in Mayo¹s minor journey to the All-Ireland final in 1958 where they were beaten by Dublin. Joe scored 4-19 in the four matches of the campaign, but only he and Joe Langan progressed to the county senior side.
He played for the county junior team before winning a place on the senior side at right-half forward. Later he would transfer to the other wing where he was equally at home. ‘Jinking Joe’ they called him for the way he skipped over tackles and dodged the hard man’s boot. In his 96 games he scored 20 goals and 358 points.
Joe Corcoran was dropped from the Mayo team that toured America in 1963. The news rocked the county. He was 23 and was not informed of the selectors’ decision. Protesting the injustice, Westport’s Padraic Bruen, who had been selected, refused to travel with the county.
Years later Bruen and Corcoran were again to meet in much different circumstances. Joe was in the Mater Hospital in Dublin awaiting a triple by-pass. There was a six-week waiting list for surgery and his life was hanging on a thread.
Among those who came to visit the former Mayo star was the hospital administrator . . . none other than Padraic Bruen. “Leave it to me,” said Padraic, when Joe recounted his condition. The following morning the Ardnaree man was wheeled to the theatre for the emergency operation.
It took considerable persuasion to lure Joe back to football after the injustice perpetrated by the Mayo selectors. When eventually he did return his performances served only to accentuate the folly of that decision.
But Croke Park on All-Ireland final day was never to echo to his uniqueness. While showered with honours with Ardnaree, Connacht titles in 1967 and ‘69, a Railway Cup medal in’ 69 and a National League 1970 were the sum of his senior county awards.
Most of his success came from golf. “Renee, myself, my son and two daughters (Joseph, Mary and Catriona) have won a total of seven All-Ireland golf competitions, and I couldn’t win one in football,” Joe once told me.
The death of his wife Renee some years ago was a blow from which Joe never fully recovered. She was only 51, his prop, his confidant. There must have been some joy in heaven last week when the two were back together again.
May the sod rest lightly on his grave.
Rochford staying on means stability for Mayo
THE extension of Stephen Rochford’s tenure as manager of the Mayo senior team is a vote of confidence by Mayo GAA Board that will have been welcomed by the vast majority of football followers in the county. Adding a further two years to the final season of his three-year term provides the manager with the opportunity to build his own team.
It is to be hoped his backroom team will also row in.
Rochford’s appointment for a further two years (up to the end of 2020) brings stability to the post and allows him the scope and the time to comb out potential talent, to mould them in the spirit and muscle and commitment of the men he has led to the past two All-Ireland finals.
It is easier said than done, of course. The task he has set himself is difficult and fraught with disappointment and anxiety. Some of the present team are coming to the end of their careers. Trying to fill their shoes is a mammoth undertaking.
There will be failures and successes. Many will not be satisfied with anything less than the winning of the All-Ireland title. Nor indeed will Stephen Rochford.
Criticism goes with the job. Occasions will arise when we’ll question some of his decisions, as he would want us to do. In surviving the vilest of vilification from some quarters last season, Rochford displayed mental steel consistent with that of the men he had sent out in the final.
Good work is soon forgotten, mistakes rarely. But the Crossmolina native has the capacity to endure and we wish him well in his endeavours to bridge a gap that has stumped so many of those who have gone before.
Final replay was was pure theatre
AS a piece of theatre it would be hard to equal. All through it had been a fascinating encounter, a classic example of grit and resilience as Moy Davitts and Kiltimagh slugged it out in their Intermediate final replay.
And in keeping with the riveting nature of the exchanges it culminated in a flourish as dramatic as ever seen at MacHale Park.
We had begun to extol the attributes of 14-man Kiltimagh having wiped out a deficit of five points at the interval to lead by three in injury time. The Moysiders’ hopes seemed beyond redemption.
That was until James Mulderrig, in one last desperate effort, unleashed a cannonball of a shot from all of thirty metres as true as an arrow and on target with a force that almost tore the net off its rigging.
A draw was a dramatic achievement. We tucked in for extra time. And then, incredibly, from the boot of Seán Kelly came the winner to wreck the Kiltimagh dream and send Moy Davitts into raptures. Ecstasy and agony exchanged in a matter of moments.