Moran's masterclass catches Corofin
Castlebar 2-10 Corofin 0-11
Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30
It wasn't the way Stephen Rochford would have wanted to sign off on a hugely successful venture with Corofin but there was a sliver of consolation to be mined from the performances of two of the players that will, in all probability, be under his command with Mayo next year.
Rochford had no formal notification of any meeting with Mayo officials lined up for this week but, as the only candidate on the horizon, it will happen and the green light is expected within a few days.
So the power of Paddy Durkan's runs from a dominant half-back line and the stranglehold that Barry Moran had at midfield should have lightened the despair that defeat for the reigning All-Ireland club champions can trigger.
For the second time in three years Castlebar Mitchels are Connacht champions. With one leap in Tuam Stadium they moved into fourth place on the club roll of honour out west to join St Brigid's on four titles. Only Corofin on six and Clan na Gael on seven have more.
The influence of Moran, especially, can't be underestimated. He scored a ninth-minute goal to put the Mayo champions in the driving seat by squeezing a shot low past Tom Healy on the short side, not a feat of accuracy you expect from a 6'4" midfielder with a reputation for applying strength and inches, more than subtlety, to his game.
But maybe that's where the perception of Moran is more than a little skewed, that he has started only 15 of the 50 games Mayo have played since his debut in 2005 projecting an image of a player not just getting there.
He finished this final with 1-2 but his contribution stretched far beyond the scoreboard. With deft hands he wrong-footed the Corofin defence to put Neil Douglas in for their second and game-breaking goal; and he popped another deft pass, this time with the boot, into substitute Stephen Keane for a point as the game wound down.
His dominance under the kick-out is taken for granted at this stage. Greg Higgins struggled in his wake, Daithí Burke, who didn't start because of a broken nose sustained two weeks ago, fared a little better when he came in. But not enough.
"He was magnet for the ball," said Rochford in reference to Moran. "We just couldn't seem to bypass him. He scored a very, very good goal into the narrow side on the goalie. He was the most dominant player on the field without a doubt."
Behind Moran, the platform provided by Durkan, Eoghan O'Reilly and Ray O'Malley eventually sucked the life out of Corofin's smooth attack.
The exploitation of space that Corofin were able to maximise to win an All-Ireland title was matched by an attentive Castlebar rearguard.
Durkan looked so strong on the ball every time he attacked and his progress, if it is maintained at this rate, will surely lead to more permanent status in the months ahead.
This was another embellishment of the current well-being of Connacht club football at the top end.
Corofin are among the more impressive of recent All-Ireland champions, yet they can have few complaints about the margin or manner of defeat here.
The quality of tackling from both sides really stood out; crisp, consistent and effective as heavy pressure on the man in possession was applied.
Moran's goal from Danny Kirby's assist gave Castlebar a 1-1 to 0-2 lead and when he kicked his first point, again courtesy of Kirby's feed, their lead stretched to four, 1-3 to 0-2, by the 17th minute.
They should have been further ahead but Cian Costello's touch deserted him on 15 minutes after great approach work from Richie Feeney and Douglas.
But Corofin were unnerved by this and chased patiently. By the break they had drawn level, 1-5 to 0-8, and some of the sparkle in their play - Ian Burke's point after a Michael Lundy/Gary Sice connection especially - suggested they had found their stride.
But Castlebar really squeezed them in the third quarter. Douglas hit 1-2 in that period, Corofin's sole response coming from a Dylan Wall point.
The goal effectively brought closure, Rochford accepting afterwards it was the fatal blow. "We never looked like winning the game, I didn't think, in the second half," he reflected.
When Martin Farragher, who had been arguably their biggest threat up front, got his marching orders for a second yellow card it was "the absolute death sentence for us" he conceded. The game got scrappy after that with Castlebar's Neil Lydon and Lundy picking up black cards.
Alan Feeney blocked a shot from Liam Silke as full-time approached and the dying embers of a potentially dramatic comeback were extinguished.
Castlebar's win levels the head-to-heads between Mayo and Galway club teams in the Connacht championship at 14 each.
Mitchels manager Declan O'Reilly sensed the performance was coming. "We have been good all year. We played in just fits and starts in the semi-final and that actually suited us coming in, that we were slightly under the radar. But we knew what was in us. These fellows put in a real top class performance."
Rochford accepted defending an All-Ireland title is difficult but felt Corofin were very much in the right frame of mind. "If we could have resisted conceding goals against Castlebar, we could have asked them different questions. I don't think it was a hunger or a fitness issue."
If he is to be the next Mayo manager, he hopes the transition can come quickly now that his commitments with Corofin have ended.
"What is it, eight or nine weeks now since the previous management left their position? I think from a player point of view, Board point of view, and from myself and the backroom team I look to propose, if we are going to get in there we'd like to get the work on now, if it is going to be us."
Scorers - Castlebar Mitchels: N Douglas 1-3 (0-1f); B Moran 1-2; R Feeney, N Lydon, S Hopkins, E O'Reilly (f), S Keane 0-1 each.
Corofin: Martin Farragher 0-4 (2fs); G Sice 0-3 (3fs); K Fitzgerald, R Steede, D Wall, I Burke 0-1 each.
Castlebar Mitchels: R Byrne; T Cunnuiffe, A Feeney, D Newcombe; P Durcan, E O'Reilly, R O'Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, N Douglas; C Costello, R Feeney, D Kirby. Subs: A Walsh for McDonagh (34), J Durkan for Costello (37), F Durkan for Hopkins (43), S Conlon for Newcombe (46), S Keane for Lydon BC (52), R Burke for R Feeney (60)
Corofin: T Healy; P Kelly, K Fitzgerald, A Burke; C Cunningham, C McGrath, L Silke; G Higgins, R Steede; G Sice, D Wall, Michael Farragher; Martin Farragher, M Lundy, I Burke. Subs: D Burke for Higgins (33), C Silke for Cunningham (47), K Molloy for McGrath (47), J Leonard for Lundy BC (54).
Referee: E O'Grady (Leitrim).