Clinical Corofin blow Gaoth Dobhair away
Corofin 2-13 Gaoth Dobhair 1-12
Twelve months ago after Corofin beat Moorefield in the All-Ireland club semi-final in Tullamore, Kieran Molloy scarcely had time to accept the congratulations of his team-mates before grabbing his gear bag, jumping in a car and dashing to Santry where his second-half appearance for NUIG was unable to prevent UCD from winning the Sigerson Cup final.
Yesterday in Carrick-on-Shannon, Molloy was one of the last Corofin players to leave the pitch. This time he had sufficient time to savour his side's success.
His weekend itinerary, however, is still demanding.
"I'm heading home to Corofin now to get some sleep. I have to be in Galway tomorrow at 9.0am to get the bus with my NUIG team-mates for the journey to Mallow for the semi-final of this year's Sigerson Cup against UCC," said Molloy, a third-year Project and Construction Management student.
In the history of the All-Ireland football series only three clubs, UCD, St Finbarr's and Crossmaglen Rangers - who did it twice - have managed to retain the Andy Merrigan Cup. Molloy insists it was never part of Corofin's grand plan to keep the trophy in the parish for another season.
"Retaining the title was never on our radar. We are just taking it one game at a time and seeing how far we get. Luckily we are now back in the same place as we were last year.
"The 1-1 we scored before half-time was massive. It stung them because in the second half we could play the ball back and try and draw them out. We could hear them saying on the pitch 'we have to go 15 on 15' and that drew them out and left gaps inside for us."
Ultimately the gulf in experience between the sides showed. Gaoth Dobhair were appearing in their first All-Ireland semi-final while it was Corofin's ninth.
Their capacity to score in spurts at key moments of a fascinating contest was the key to Corofin's success and though they lost vice-captain Micheál Lundy to a black card early in the second half, there was never a hint of panic.
Their match-ups worked well too. At times in the second half Odhrán MacNiallias threatened to single-handedly drag Gaoth Dobhair into the decider but overall he was well marshalled by Liam Silke, who not only scored a point but stripped MacNiallias of possession in a move which culminated in Gary Sice's 18th-minute goal.
The latter was immaculate with his free-taking, converting seven, but it was arguably Corofin's quick-fire 1-1 in the dying minutes of the first half which turned the game.
While Sice's goal put them 1-4 to 0-2 ahead, Gaoth Dobhair responded positively. Within 90 seconds the ball was in the Corofin net courtesy of a typically opportunistic goal from veteran Kevin Cassidy.
Corner-back Christopher McFadden took a quick pass from MacNiallais and drove through the opposing defence taking a generous number of steps on the way before blasting a goal-bound shot which Corofin goalkeeper Bernard Power did brilliantly to parry. But the rebound fell to Cassidy who made no mistake from close range.
Even though Corofin hit the next two points Gaoth Dobhair responded magnificently, kicking three on the spin to narrow the gap to a point with half-time approaching.
The pace of the game had been relentless but the Galway champions hit a rich scoring streak when it mattered most with Sice and Ian Burke combining to set up Martin Farragher for a goal and then Sice added a free to leave them 2-7 to 1-5 ahead at the break.
For the most part Corofin expertly managed the game in the second half, slowing the play down and keeping possession by stringing endless hand-passes together in the middle third of the field.
Even when three unanswered Gaoth Dobhair points - two from the tireless Cassidy - left two points between the sides with nine minutes left, there was no sense of panic in the Corofin ranks.
They hit the next three points - all from play - to secure the win. Gaoth Dobhair substitute James O'Carroll scored two late points but they didn't impact on the final outcome.
Scorers - Corofin: G Sice 1-7 (0-7f); M Farragher 1-0; J Leonard 0-2 (1f); L Silke, D Burke, I Burke, G Burke 0-1 each. Gaoth Dobhair: K Cassidy 1-2; O Mac Niallais (1f), C Mulligan (2f), E Collum (1f), J O'Carroll 0-2 each; N Friel, D O Baoill 0-1 each.
Corofin: B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke; K Molloy, D McMcHugh, D Wall; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, M Farragher, J Leonard; M Farragher, I Burke, M Lundy. Subs: G Burke for Wall (35); C Brady for Lundy (BC) (36); C Cunningham for McHugh (55); C McGrath for Farragher (58), D Canney for Sice (60).
Gaoth Dobhair: C Sweeney; G McFadden, N McGee, C McFadden; N Friel, E McGee, O McFadden-Ferry; D Ó Baoil, O Mac Niallais; C Mulligan, N Ó Baoill, D McBride; E Collum, K Cassidy, M O'Carroll. Subs: J O'Carroll for N Ó Baoill (54); S Ó Baoill for McFadden (58).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).
Sunday Indo Sport