Morris save kills off Tuam revival
NO fairytale ending for Tuam Stars after all as Corofin copperfastened their reputation as the new aristocrats of Galway football with their third title in four years yesterday.
A big crowd had rocked up to Tuam Stadium wondering if the home club, who spawned such legends as Sean Purcell and Frankie Stockwell, could win their first decider in 16 years and provide the sort of barnstorming local history that might inspire a new Sawdoctors eulogy.
Local troubadours Leo Moran and Davy Carton must surely have been sharpening their pencils after 49 minutes when the local darlings, who had trailed by 10, suddenly cut the deficit back to five thanks to a Gary O'Donnell goal and were then awarded a penalty.
When Shane Gaffney shaped up to take it, everyone held their breath and he struck it hard and low, but Corofin 'keeper David Morris got to it, and with his save Tuam's hopes of their first title since 1994 quickly receded.
It was a drama that provided flashbacks for both sides. When Tuam last made the final in '95 they were denied victory by another Corofin penalty save, Martin MacNamara denying Kevin Reidy's last-minute effort. In truth, there was a lot more between the sides yesterday, but Morris was thrilled to play his part.
"Martin Mac is a big hero of mine, he's our goalkeeping coach and an inspiration to me so to be even mentioned in the same vein as him is a huge thing," he said. "I knew Shane Gaffney is a superb finisher so I knew it was either going to be low to one corner or high to either corner and I just guessed right.
"They were coming in droves at that stage and we were finding it hard to stop them but thankfully we broke their spirit then and just held on."
Morris wasn't Corofin's only hero. Alan O'Donovan's freetaking was immaculate, even in the face of some unsporting catcalling in the second half, and he was equally good from open play, scoring half of his 0-10 by half-time.
He led Corofin's first-half domination as Tuam paid a heavy price for opting to play into the wind and found themselves trailing 0-11 to 0-2 at the break. With Corofin's half-forwards and midfield rampant, the hosts struggled desperately to win their own kick-outs.
They had a nine-point mountain to climb but attacked it manfully.
Switching wing-back David Connern to midfield made a huge difference, as did moving their half-backs around to win their own kick-outs, and the arrival of Rory Gaffney off the bench also helped them swap score for score in the third quarter, with Noel Henry and Jamie Murphy also bagging key points.
Sixteen minutes after the restart they got the lifeline they needed when Henry found O'Donnell with a clever pass and he deftly chipped Morris for their goal.
Had the penalty gone in three minutes later, who knows what might have happened, but Tuam manager Alan Flynn was philosophical afterwards.
"You'd never know, but we were struggling," he admitted. "There wasn't much we could say at half-time except that we hadn't played at all, weren't picking up any breaks, so we just had to come out and have a go at them. We certainly hadn't given up hope but it was an uphill struggle."
It was Tuam's fifth game in five weeks after needing replays in both their quarter- and semi-finals but Flynn magnanimously refused to use that as an excuse.
"Ah no, our second-half performance showed that we weren't that tired, we just didn't get out of the blocks at the start," he said. "We have plenty of young lads and will regroup, but I feel sorry for some of the older lads who've been waiting such a long time to get back here."
Corofin certainly showed why they have contested the last four county finals and won six titles since 2000. They have been accused of being a tad defensive but not yesterday, when they showcased a brilliant counter-attacking, off-loading game in the first half.
Half-backs Alan Burke and Gary Delaney both scored and behind them Kieran Fitzgerald and Kieran McGrath regularly dashed upfield to cause havoc.
Their play also featured some fantastic footpassing and their half-forwards -- Gary Sice, Damien Burke and Kieran Comer -- led the charge brilliantly.
When they had much less possession and depended solely on O'Donovan's freetaking in the second half, they were still smart and efficient and always took the right option. Their ability to play different ways suggests their tussle with Mayo champions Ballintubber next weekend should be a cracker.
Inspirational full-back and captain Fitzgerald, whose only error was pulling down Conor Doherty for the penalty, paid tribute to their management.
"We were bitterly disappointed last year when we were going for a three in-a-row but lost to Killererin," the county star said. "We really felt we didn't perform that day but Brian Silke took us over this year, set up a new management team and we've done 108 training sessions, so we've worked hard for this."
Scorers -- Corofin: A O'Donovan 0-10 (6f, 1 '45), Damien Burke 0-2, A Burke, G Delaney, J Burke, K Comer 0-1 each. Tuam: G O'Donnell 1-1, S Curtin 0-2 (1f), N Henry, J Murphy, S Gaffney 0-1 each.
Corofin -- D Morris; P Kelly, K Fitzgerald, K McGrath; A Burke, G Delaney, M Comer; Daithi Burke, G Higgins; G Sice, Damien Burke, K Comer; M Lundy, J Burke, A O'Donovan. Subs: R Steede for K Comer (45), R Burke for Damien Burke (30), I Burke for Lundy (63), A Donnellan for Daithi Burke (64), T Burke for J Burke (64).
Tuam -- J Trayers; D O'Rourke, I McGough, A Tierney; D Connern, T Costello, N Henry; B Devaney, J Lawless; S Curtin, J Murphy, G O'Donnell; D Byrne, C Doherty, S Gaffney. Subs: R Gaffney for Devaney (h-t), D Marley for Byrne (42), D Murray for Curtin (58), G Cunniffe for Gaffney (58), J Kearns for Tierney (61).
Ref -- G Daly