Iain Corbett joined an exclusive group on January 15.
Limerick footballers earning an All-Star nomination is an infrequent occurrence, with Corbett becoming only the sixth Treaty man since the turn of the millennium to make the shortlist – John Quane, Muiris Gavin, John Galvin, Conor Mullane, and Johnny McCarthy the previous five — and the county’s first in 10 years after Galvin received the third and final of his nominations in 2010.
Corbett, however, is quick to deflect from the individual recognition bestowed on him by the All-Star selectors. However, when the above list is called out to him, re-emphasising how rare a feat his is, the 28-year-old describes as “humbling” being mentioned in the same breath as Galvin and McCarthy, two men he played alongside when their inter-county careers briefly overlapped.
“When you see how high an esteem they are held in Limerick, and probably all over the country really, especially John Galvin, when you put it in that context, it is very humbling. It is definitely an honour to be in that group of Limerick footballers to get a nomination,” said Corbett.
“It got people talking about Limerick football for 24 hours and puts us on the map. It is not something that happens every year, so it is nice to have people talking about Limerick football in a positive light.
“With no backdoor last year, there was less football, so maybe it was easier to get noticed. Compared to previous years, we had a positive year. The nomination was definitely based on what the team did in 2020.”
What Limerick did in 2020 was defeat Cork to win the McGrath Cup, earn promotion to Division 3 by virtue of finishing top of Division 4, and come within a whisker of making the county’s first Munster final in 10 years.
The latter involved extra-time heartache at the hands of eventual champions Tipperary after having victory snatched from them by an outrageous Conor Sweeney free from the sideline five minutes into second-half stoppages.
“I have watched it back, we probably dominated the game for 50 minutes. They had a 20-minute window after half-time where they got back on top and bar a superb score from Conor Sweeney, we probably would have got to a Munster final, which would have been massive progress.
“When you see Tipp going on to beat Cork, there is always a bit of what if. To be honest, I’d always prefer to see maybe Tipperary or Clare win a Munster than Cork or Kerry, it just gives you that bit of hope.
“To see that progress we made last year, there is definitely an appetite to get back training whenever we are allowed back and hopefully progress further.”
If the 2021 League does see the light of day at the end of March or early April, Limerick will be grouped with Tipperary, Offaly, and Wicklow in Division 3 South. Two from this four will end up in the Division 3 semi-finals and the Cahir-based garda sees no reason why Limerick cannot take one of the available spots.
“If it was the normal eight, you would have been looking to consolidate, finish mid-table, and stay up. With the way it is now, you’ll have to target promotion and getting to that promotion semi-final, otherwise you’ll be involved in the relegation play-offs.”
When asked about the two options on the table to reform the All-Ireland SFC, the versatile defender — who played every minute of League and Championship for Limerick in 2020 — trumps for the League-based All-Ireland series.
“The League is where teams are playing sides at their own level. At the moment, it is played in mainly wintry conditions, so if you move that to the summer, it probably would be a better advertisement for the game and you would have a lot of very close and competitive games, whereas in the championship, that is not always the way things pan out.
“If you are watching two Division 4 teams in the summer and they are both kicking 17, 18 points, it is going to be a lot more enjoyable than watching one of the stronger teams beat another team by 25 points,” reasoned Corbett, who is facing into his 10th inter-county season in 2021.
“The guarantee of eight games each summer too, some lads might not play that in three years. That definitely would be a big nugget of motivation. There is definitely a place for the provincial championships, but maybe not linked to the overall All-Ireland series. You saw with Tipp and Cavan that there is so much emotion attached to winning a provincial championship, but then you have the other side of it with the likes of Dublin or Kerry and there is very little emotion attached to them winning their provincial championship because it has become the norm.”