It isn’t the game itself that Brian Looney remembers most from St Patrick’s weekend two years ago, or the three points from play he kicked, or the medal pocketed.
What stands out is the sound of Maurice Deegan’s final whistle and the magical few days that followed.
Looney found himself sitting in the cushioned seats towards the bottom of the Hogan Stand approaching the end of the 2017 All-Ireland club football final having been called ashore by Crokes’ manager Pat O’Shea with three minutes of normal time remaining.
As Crokes strung handpass after handpass after handpass to run down the clock during injury time, Looney and the rest of the panel made their way down to the gate leading onto the pitch.
“The utter joy and relief at the final whistle is probably the first thing that comes to mind from two years ago,” he says of the Killarney club’s second Andy Merrigan Cup triumph.
“I remember trying to run onto the pitch, slipping, picking myself up and greeting as many of my teammates as possible. Having battled with so many for up to 10 years to get to that level, it probably made the victory over Slaughtneil all the sweeter.
“That first hour after the game was pretty special, as it was just pure elation. It is something that will live in my memory for a long, long time.”
Having stayed amongst themselves in the sanctity of the dressing room for up to an hour after the presentation, the team then headed to the Croke Park Hotel for a meal before boarding the train which would take them back to where this journey began.
“We had a couple of carriages booked out for just the team. The rest of the train was pretty much family, friends and supporters.
“There was a bit of mingling and that gave us the opportunity to relive the whole thing again with those closest to us.
“One thing I vividly remember was we came through Rathmore station and the train slowed considerably.
“There was a group of people (from rival clubs) who had come out to congratulate and greet us, which was fantastic to see. That was a lovely touch. It showed the genuine goodwill that exists in Kerry among clubs.
“In Killarney, another train had come in shortly before ours so a lot of people waited around for us, which was another fantastic experience.
“The following day, the players and management had lunch with friends and then we did a parade of the town. It was an incredible few days.”
Those many special moments from two years ago have heightened the collective desire amongst O’Shea’s troops to return to club football’s summit.
“Yeah, we’d love to do it all again,” continued 31-year-old Looney.
“It is the pinnacle of a club player’s career to play in an All-Ireland club final.
“To get to that level and to win one, you realise it is more than just a medal, it is more than just an All-Ireland title, it is recognition for what you’ve done with the team, the sacrifices.
“And to do it with the people you grew up with, your best friends, is unbelievable.
“Having experienced how good it can be, absolutely, you’d love to experience it again, but also are cognisant of how lucky we were to experience it once at all.”
Having joined the Crokes panel as an 18-year old in 2006, Looney, unlike Tony Brosnan and Kerry senior Micheál Burns, didn’t have to serve his apprenticeship coming off the bench and was quickly chucked in at the deep end.
In March of the following year, the teenager found himself lining out at Croke Park, dealing with a Crossmaglen half-back line containing Tony McEntee and Aaron Kernan.
Having had to wait 10 years for another crack at All-Ireland club glory on St Patrick’s Day, Looney is allowing himself to enjoy the build-up to this weekend and their second club final appearance in three campaigns.
No more than Corofin — for whom this is their third final in five years — the Dr Crokes forward is fully appreciative of the privileged position they find themselves in.
“Back in 2007, while it was unbelievably disappointing to lose the replay, we were young and naive enough to think this was going to come around every couple of years,” he says.
“But there were a few barren years after that. We had to go through a lot of heartache and a lot of tough losses to get to where we are. Certainly, having got there the first year and then waited 10 years to get back, you grew in appreciation of what it actually is to reach the club final, how difficult it is and how fortunate one is to get that opportunity to play in an All-Ireland club final, let alone win one.
“Certainly, in 2017 and this year, I’m really enjoying the build-up, soaking it up at training and really looking forward to the day.
“Nothing short of the team ethic we showed when reduced to 14 men against Mullinalaghta and a willingness to do everything we can to win will be good enough against Corofin.”