Gaoth Dobhair dream comes up short as classy Corofin move into another All-Ireland final
Corfin 2-13 Gaoth Dobhair 1-12
Corofin are through to another All-Ireland club football final after ending Gaoth Dobhair's dream of glory in a thrilling semi-final in Carrick-on-Shannon.
The Galway side are the defending All-Ireland title holders and the gulf in experience between the two sides is illustrated by the fact that this was Corofin's fifth's semi-final appearance in recent years while the Donegal champions had never played at this level of the competition before.
Corofin's ability to strike for key scores at vital stages of the game ultimately proved the difference. They hit an unanswered 1-2 in the first half and although Gweedore struck back for a goal, Corofin finished the half on a high, hitting 1-1 to lead at the break 2-7 to 1-5.
They looked in control for most of the third quarter. When a spirited Gweedore revival brought them to within two points of their opponents with nine minutes remaining, Corofin then reeled off three points without reply to comfortably secure their passage to the All-Ireland decider.
Eamon McGee teamed up with Daire O Baoill in the Gaoth Dobhair midfield with Odran McNiallais switching to centre forward, where he was picked up by Liam Silke and the pair had a fascinating first half duel.
The Donegal champions deployed just two forwards, Kevin Cassidy and Eamon Collum, inside the Corofin half, but a feature of an enthralling first half was the speed with which both sides could turn defence into attack.
After a tentative start the sides were level at 0-2 each after ten minutes. The defending All-Ireland title holders then hit a purple patch, hitting 1-2 without reply. The move which led to the Corofin goal began when Silke dispossessed MacNiallias; the Galway champions moved the ball rapidly and Gary Sice finished the move at the other end.
Gaoth Dobhair needed a quick response and it was forthcoming. A foul on Odran McFadden-Ferry set in motion a move which saw Odhran McNiallais link up with corner back Christopher McFadden, who took a generous number of steps before unleashing a powerful shot which Bernard Power did brilliantly to parry.
But Kevin Cassidy was ideally placed to pick up the rebound and blast to the net. Even though Corofin got the next two scores courtesy of a Jason Leonard free and a beautiful effort from Ian Burke to lead by four, Gweedore then enjoyed their best spell of the half.
They hit the next three points – two from play – to narrow the gap to a single point (1-6 to 1-5). But Corofin finished the half in style with a second goal from Martin Farragher after Ian Burke had fetched and laid off a high ball from Gary Sice. He added a free in injury time to bring his personal tally to 1-3 for the first half and leave the Galway champions in control at the break leading 2-7 to 1-5.
Gaoth Dobhair narrowed the gap to four points with an early second half point from Odhran MacNiallais, though Gary Sice tapped over a free soon afterwards.
The increasingly influential MacNiallais set up Eamon Collum for a Gaoth Dobhair point before Corofin lost their joint-captain Micheál Lundy to a black card in the 35th minute. There wasn't the slightest hint of panic in the Corofin play though and Gary Sice tapped over a routine free to restore their five point advantage.
Gaoth Dobhair's courage was admirable though and they were back in the contest by the mid-point of the half after back to back points from Cassidy and Collum (free). But Corofin slowed the pace of the game, playing keep ball in the middle third of the field much to the annoyance of the Gaoth Dobhair fans in the attendance of 5,109.
But the fans' spirit were raised again in the 52nd minute when Kevin Cassidy got the better of Kieran Fitzgerald and landed a sweet point to cut the deficit to just two points. But Corofin responded like true champions kicking the next three points to ease into way into the St Patrick's Day decider.
Corofin (Galway): B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald; L Silke (0-1), K Molloy, D McMcHugh, D Wall; D Burke (0-1), R Steede; G Sice (1-7, 7f), M Farragher, J Leonard (0-2, 1f); M Farragher (1-0), I Burke (0-1), M Lundy. Subs: G Burke (0-1) for Wall 35m; C Brady for Lundy (BC) 36m; C Cunningham for McHugh 55m; C McGrath for Farragher 58m, D Canney for Sice 60m
Gaobh Dobhair (Donegal): C Sweeney; G McFadden, N McGee, C McFadden; N Friel (0-1), E McGee; O McFadden-Ferry; D O Baoill (0-1), O MacNiallais (0-2, 1f); C Mulligan (0-2, 2f) , N O'Baoill, D McBride; E Collum (0-2, 1f), K Cassidy (1-2), M O'Carroll. Subs: J O'Carroll (0-2) for N O Baoill 54m; S O Baoill for McFadden 58m
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)