Corofin GAA club represents the ecclesiastical parish of Cummer and Kilmoylan in north Galway in the Archdiocese of Tuam. It incorporates two civil or ‘half’ parishes in Corofin (parish priest) and Belclare (curate).
There is a tradition of Gaelic football in this area that pre-dates the foundation of the GAA when ‘football’ games at big sports days were contested by teams from the parish.
Corofin-born and long-time local parish priest – Dr Patrick Duggan – who was then Bishop of Clonfert was Michael Cusack’s first choice as a clerical patron of the new association in 1884. Bishop Duggan had a long history of activism on the land and independence issues that dominated the political landscape in the middle of the 19th century. However, the popular and much respected Bishop – then 71 years old – declined the invitation on health grounds and directed the delegation to the more youthful Dr Croke – Archbishop of Cashel.
One of the earliest written accounts of participation in Gaelic football by a team from the parish is a report by W Gardiner in the Tuam News and Western Advertiser of August 12th 1887. It records a sports day held in Corundulla under the auspices of “Annaghdown Gaelic and Athletic Association" and amongst many athletic events there were two one hour football games between teams from Corofin and Annaghdown and later Annaghdown and Caherlistrane.
Reflecting the strong home Rule and nationalist sentiments of the time, the correspondent records: “The Corofin men came at about 3 ‘o ‘clock led on by Thomas Varden , bearing aloft their large green banner, having inscribed on its front in golden letters 'The standard of Ireland shall float proudly and free’"
Although it took some time for the fledgling GAA to take root in Galway, when it did, various groups from the parish enthusiastically engaged; with Belclare Parnellites, Belclare Harpers, Corofin Colonel Nolans, Corofin Shamrocks, and Corofin Rebels fielding teams at different times in the early years of local championships.
However it was a major struggle for rural clubs to compete with town teams for organisational, logistical (transport) and economic reasons. It is illustrative that of the thirty four senior championships completed in Galway between 1889 and 1930, only one – Caherlistrane in 1890 – was won by a rural club. Belclare Harpers did reach the final in 1900 but lost out to Dunmore. There was however recognition of the prowess of players from the parish and Mike O’Dea, Edward Canavan, William Hardiman and Christy Ryan were the first men from the parish to play for Galway. John J Daly of Dawros – Olympic silver medallist in St Louis – was the captain of Corofin Rebels in 1903.
With the turmoil and disruption of war and emigration in the first two decades of the 20th century it was increasingly difficult to be competitive and Corofin and Belclare decided to amalgamate in 1925 when the current club was formed. The name of the new club was decided when Corofin captained by Paddy Stephens defeated Belclare captained by Hubert McHugh in a game in Anbally on Easter Sunday – April 12th.
It was also in 1925 that Tom Molloy of Pollinore – but then working in and playing with Ballinasloe- became the first man from the parish to win an All-Ireland senior football medal. (He subsequently trained Galway to win the 1934 All Ireland Senior championship and significantly the great Roscommon team of the 40’s to further All-Ireland successes).
Success came quickly for the new club and junior county championships were won in 1926 and 1928.Then, powered by the returned Tom Molloy and county men Dermot Mitchell and Paddy Stephens Corofin won a first senior title in 1932.
A second title was won in 1946 but this was overshadowed by the tragic death a couple of days later of a young star of the team – Joe Mannion – as a result of accidental collision early in the game. The impact on his fellow players and the club was devastating. Players drifted away and for more than a decade the club struggled for its very survival in junior football. It was revived in part through a long term investment in under-age football which began in the national schools who played for the Raftery Cup. The Club also ran parish leagues and competed with some success in very popular 7 a side tournaments. A major breakthrough for the club came with a junior championship title in 1959 and a North Board juvenile title – the club’s first underage title. The foundations were almost but not fully in place!
It was the winning of the 1962 minor title coupled by another Junior championship in 1963 that finally propelled Corofin back to the forefront of senior football in Galway where they remain to this day. Building off those junior and minor squads and fortified by the returning Comer brothers, they reached the final of a high quality 1964 senior football championship as Galway football annexed the first of its’ storied 'three in a row'. Corofin lost out to Mountbellew but they had finally arrived as a serious senior football club. There were still many bumps and disappointments along the way but our third senior title was eventually secured in 1977.
In the late 80s Frank Morris, then club secretary set up and directed a new juvenile development programme which yielded the club unprecedented success at underage level. This included an incredible 8 minor ‘A’ titles in a row 1992-1999 and two All-Ireland Féile titles in 1995 and 2004.
This conveyor belt of talent has been the bedrock of our golden era of senior club football.
When Martin Goggins took over management of the team for the 1991 season, Corofin were coming off the back of a county final drubbing by Salthill but by the end of a tumultuous year that defeat had been avenged and they were county and Connacht champions.
Three more county senior titles followed before our ‘day of days’ – March 17th 1998 when Tony Murphy’s charges were crowned All-Ireland club champions and Ray Silke became the first Connacht club captain to raise the Andy Merrigan Cup.
Corofin hasn’t rested on its laurels. Through ongoing hard work and an unwavering and passionate commitment to underage development, the club has continued to thrive. It has won another All-Ireland club final (March 17th 2015), a further ten Galway senior Championships, three Connacht club titles, three All-Ireland club 7 a-aside titles, an Ireland Féile title, eleven County U-21 titles and six Galway minor titles since 1998.
The 2014/ 2015 season will be recorded as a year of spectacular achievement for the club and especially our senior team. Unbeaten in League and Championship in Galway, Stephen Rochford’s men lit up the club championship with a thrilling brand of pacey, disciplined, attacking football against many worthy opponents. For the second time, Corofin reached the summit of Club football when Michael Farragher raised the Andy Merrigan Cup at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
The following weekend - celebrations notwithstanding -the pitches in Belclare and Corofin were full of U8s, U10s, U14s, U16s, minors and coaches. The next generation! The next Ball! Business as usual!
In October 2015 the Club completed it’s first ever ‘three-in-a-row’ of county championship victories when defeating Mountbellew / Moylough in the County final. This was followed by victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra in the 2016 county final and we then went on to make it a "five-in-a-row", bringing the Frank Fox Cup back to the parish for the 19th time in all, with victory again over Mountbellew-Moylough in the county final played in Tuam Stadium on Sunday on 15 October 2017.
The Club added the Connacht Club Championship for a record 8 times with victory over Castlebar Mitchels, Mayo on 26 November 2017.
On 17 March, 2018, the Club won it’s third All-Ireland Club title defeating Nemo Rangers of Cork by 2-19 to 0-10.
The work goes on and history is constantly made!