Burke and Sice guide Corofin to sixth provincial crown
Corofin 2-13 Ballintubber 1-7 Connacht Club SFC final
ANY fears that Corofin hadn’t been adequately tested before yesterday’s AIB Connacht final were blown out of the water when the aristocrats of Galway football won their sixth provincial title with an awesome display.
All the talk beforehand was about how their star-studded Mayo opponents – featuring the O’Connor brothers, Alan Dillon and Jason Gibbons – had chalked up 20 goals en route, while also taking out the last two Connacht champions.
Corofin had racked up 21 themselves but their romp to a 16th county title, followed by that seven-goal filleting of Aughawillan, had raised questions about how they would handle the Mayo champions and first-time finalists in Castlebar, where only a point separated them in the 2011 semi-finals.
But the proud Galwaymen produced a display of skill and work rate that completely defied the date and the venue and easily secured their first title since 2009.
“Everyone was saying, ‘You weren’t tested’ but there you are now!” said delighted Gary Sice, whose overall contribution, never-mind his 1-2 tally, underlined what Galway missed in his inter-county absence this season.
“We’ve been gunning for this all year, we knew we had a little bit extra in us,” Sice said, after receiving the TG4 man of the match award, a gong he reckoned should have gone to corner-forward Ian Burke (21).
Young Burke, a former All-Ireland U-21 winner, was simply unstoppable in the opening quarter, scoring three of Corofin’s opening four points and forcing ‘Tubber to switch markers on him after just 13 minutes. They had heroes all over the park and the Mayo champions simply had no answer to their crowded, tigerish defence which repeatedly stole ball and quickly transferred it upfield with the sort of high-quality foot-passing that is lamentably absent in so many modern inter-county teams.
“As Tomas O Se said on the ‘Sunday Game’ during the summer, it’s a game of foot-ball!” manager Stephen Rochford stressed.
“The best way to transfer the ball from defence to attack is by foot. There’s no need for 60-metre screamers, you have to have an appreciation of moving the ball quickly, and there’s no better way than by foot.
“Whether we were coming in a bit cold we had to wait and see,” he admitted. “But I felt that we were pitched right for it.”
In his second year in charge Rochford can surely take credit for their style and excellent match-ups.
Greg Higgins had 14 on his back but cleaned up as a half-back/midfielder.
County hurler Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede broke ball tirelessly to snuff out Jason Gibbons and Stephen Broderick at centre-field. Former All Star Kieran Fitzgerald may be 33 but kept current All Star Cillian O’Connor to a single point from play.
Ciaran McGrath was equally good in a defence which allowed just two men to score and Liam Silke also had a good game on Dillon, who was Ballintubber’s best player.
They have made remarkable progress since winning the Mayo intermediate title just seven years ago but they simply had no answer to Corofin’s pace, skill and heart yesterday.
“We were well beaten, we have no complaints,” said beaten manager Peter Ford.
“We thought we had half a chance at half-time when we were only three points behind (0-7 to 0-4) but we were lucky to be just three down,” he said candidly. “The first 10 to 15 minutes of the second half they just changed gears.”
Tubber didn’t help themselves at times, particularly with some stray first-half kick-outs.
But the goals that Corofin threatened weren’t long coming after the re-start.
Michael Farragher dished a great pass to lay on the first for Sice and made a glorious long-range pass to set up their second, which saw Sice put Burke through to fist it home after just 40 minutes.
Michael Lundy then matched the long-range foot-passing of Farragher and Gary Delaney with one that yielded Burke’s fifth point and a 12-point lead.
Dillon threw Ballintubber a lifeline then with what was only the second goal that Corofin have conceded in this championship run but, in truth, all the Mayo side could do at that stage was cling on to the life-raft.
In 1998, Corofin were the first Connacht team to win the club All-Ireland.
Ian Burke’s dad was on that team, so was Liam and Cathal Silke’s uncle Ray and that sort of legacy will surely be a factor as they head to London next hoping to win a crack at the eventual Leinster champions.
Scorers – Corofin: I Burke 1-5 (1f), G Sice 1-2, K Fitzgerald, R Steede, M Lundy, Michael Farragher, Martin Farragher and G Delaney 0-1 each. Ballintubber: C O’Connor 0-6 (5fs), A Dillon 1-1.
Corofin – T Healy; L Silke, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; G Higgins, C McGrath, A Burke; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, Michael Farragher, G Delaney; Martin Farragher, M Lundy, I Burke. Subs: D Wall for Martin Farragher (48), C Cunningham for C Silke (BC, 56), J Canney for Michael Farragher (60), P Kelly for C McGrath (61), M Comer for Steede (61).
Ballintubber – B Walsh; D Larkin, C Hallinan, B Murphy; M Kelly, M Plunkett, R O’Connor; J Gibbons, S Broderick; D Coleman, A Dillon, D O’Connor; A Plunkett, C O’Connor, P O’Connor. Subs: R Geraghty for P O’Connor (34), D Summerville for A Plunkett (39), J Geraghty for M Plunkett (54), D Geraghty for Broderick (58).
Ref – P Neilan (Roscommon)
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