Lundy shrugs off operation to put Corofin in seventh heaven
Corofin 2-13 C'bar Mitchels 1-12 - Connacht Club SFC Final
Micheál Lundy went from the surgeon's table to Tuam Stadium in the space of ten days and took a scalpel to Castlebar Mitchels in a record seventh provincial title for Corofin.
The Galway forward had his appendix removed late last week, but managed to return as goal-scoring hero following an extra-time battle with the 2015 champions.
The Corofin management left it late to give Lundy the nod to start, but after spending ten days on his back he came through the warm-up and then played a huge part in his team's victory.
Five points down approaching full-time, Mitchels kicked the last five points of normal time, with David Stenson landing the equaliser. But Corofin could fall back on their extra-time win over St Brigid's in the last four, and they ran out easy winners in the end - despite Justin Burke's missed penalty.
For Lundy this win was sweet, and he was relieved to come through unscathed.
"It (the appendix) is gone since last Thursday week. It is not holding me back any more," said Lundy.
"The doctor knew I wanted to play. He told me to see how it goes, and see how I feel by the end of the week.
"I did nothing all week only sit on my couch, just rested up. I wasn't working.
"Later in the week it felt great and I did a bit of running on Friday and the lads had training. I felt great - I said to Kevin O'Brien (the manager): 'We'll see how it does; I feel fine'. We left it to the warm-up and I had no pain there. Thankfully it was sound."
Corofin's victory brought a fifth Connacht title for the long-serving trio of captain Ciaran McGrath, Kieran Fitzgerald and Gary Sice.
Despite all their meetings in recent years, this was the first time Corofin have beaten Mitchels in the final, and now with four titles to his name, Lundy is ready to enjoy the fortnight before they face Fulham Irish in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
"It's a great feeling. A Connacht title is special and a Connacht final against Castlebar, they are such a great team and that makes it all the more special," said Lundy.
"We knew if we weren't at our best, even a small bit off, Castlebar would punish us. They have done it in the past. This is a special day - Connacht titles don't come around too often, especially at home in Tuam. It's a great win and we'll enjoy it."
Castlebar were second best in this encounter by some distance - they were allowed back into the game by some slack Corofin play in the closing ten minutes of normal time.
With a five-point lead to protect it wasn't a case that they ran out of steam - Corofin showed great fitness in extra-time - but they sought to retain possession and they were caught on the back foot.
One one occasion after Stenson started the comeback, with nine minutes to go Corofin brilliantly retained the ball for more than a minute and ended up with a Colin Brady shot at goal. Had he tapped over a simple point the comeback would have been beyond Mitchels, but two points each from Neil Douglas and Stenson forced extra-time.
"It was a bit like the last day against St Brigid's again," said manager O'Brien. "Once a team gets momentum those tight calls go to them. We were happy with the full-time whistle really."
In the first half Corofin were by far the better side. A goal on three minutes by Aidan Walsh gave Mitchels a great start, but with Dylan Wall and Liam Silke rampaging forward from the back Corofin led 2-4 to 1-3 at half-time.
Brady's goal on ten minutes came after Silke's incisive run from deep, while Wall's brilliant pick-up on the run was a key moment for their second goal. Ian Burke was fouled on the left, but in the blink of an eye he picked out Lundy with a quick free and he rounded Rory Byrne to hit the net.
The fact that Corofin lost Fitzgerald after 20 minutes due to a head knock, and their captain McGrath at the end of normal time and still ran out winners, underlines the strength of their squad. In extra-time another experienced face, Sice, kicked two points, while Martin Farragher returned off the bench to land the final score.
Sice was also hauled down in the first period of extra-time for a penalty, but substitute Justin Burke saw his kick well saved by Rory Byrne.
Stenson cut Corofin's lead back to two points before the start of the second period, but another sub Barry O'Donovan and Farragher finished off the scoring for Corofin, who ended Mitchels' provincial run for the second year in a row after extra-time.
"I felt maybe the winning and losing of the game was in the first period of extra-time. We tried to get fresh legs on the pitch, but maybe it got away from us there," said Mitchels joint-manger Declan O'Reilly.
"We showed the character in these fellas to come back. They are a fantastic bunch to me. they'll come back and go again because that's what they do.
"I just feel for them because they just put in so much work. It is disappointing to lose."
Scorers - Corofin: C Brady 1-1, J Leonard 0-5 (3fs), M Lundy 1-0, G Sice 0-3 (2fs), Martin Farragher 0-2, R Steede, B O'Donovan 0-1. Castlebar Mitchels: D Stenson 0-6 (4fs), N Douglas 0-5 (2fs), A Walsh 1-0, E O'Reilly 0-1.
Corofin- B Power; C McGrath (c), K Fitzgerald, L Silke; D Wall, C Cunningham, K Molloy; Michael Farragher, R Steede; M Lundy, G Sice, J Leonard; C Brady, Martin Farragher, I Burke. Subs: C Silke for Fitzgerald (21 blood), D Burke for Brady (53), J Burke for Martin Farragher (57), D McHugh for Molloy (57), B O'Donovan for Lundy (60+2), C Brady for Wall (60+3), K Murphy for McGrath (60+5), K Molloy for Cunninghan (73), Martin Farragher for J Burke (79).
Castlebar Mitchels - R Byrne (c); D Newcombe, G McDonagh, R O'Malley; J Maughan, E O'Reilly, P Durcan; A Walsh, B Moran; C Costello, D Kirby, S Hopkins; D Stenson, N Douglas, J Durcan. Subs: S Irwin for Maughan (33), N McCarney for Hopkins (48), M Towey for Walsh (72), C Kyne for Costello (74), M McCormack for McCarney (78 BC).
Ref - Marty Duffy (Sligo)