Annaghdown let jaded Corofin off the hook

Ian Burke of Corofin comes under pressure from Eoghan Kerin of Annaghdown in the Galway GAA Senior Football championship semi-finals at Tuam Stadium. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Ian Burke of Corofin comes under pressure from Eoghan Kerin of Annaghdown in the Galway GAA Senior Football championship semi-finals at Tuam Stadium. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Annaghdown footballers had a glorious opportunity to reach the 2017 county final last Sunday when they led a lacklustre Corofin going into the last 10 minutes of their semi-final.

Corofin had looked flat and disjointed over the previous 50 minutes, and it was Michael Geoghegan's men who looked the more likely side to join Mountbellew-Moylough in the county final on October 15, particularly with the cushion of a well-taken Frankie Burke penalty just before half-time.

Corofin shot a good few wides in the first 18 minutes of the second half and they looked likely to pay the price for their uncharacteristically low-key display, when Annaghdown were three to the good going into the home stretch.

However, Corofin substitute Justin Burke had other ideas, and he played a huge role in the last quarter as he kicked 0-3 from play to eke out a win and ease his side into yet another county final by 0-11 to 1-7.

Wing-forward Jason Leonard also kicked two good pressure frees near the end to squeeze Corofin past the tape.

A few injuries to some Annnaghdown players, such as full-back Anthony Pender, opened the door for Corofin - the maroon replacements were not of the same standard as the men they replaced, and a few errors by some of the subs gave Corofin scoring chances from frees in the last few minutes.

Duggan impressive for Annaghdown

Annaghdown had some fine displays from Anthony Pender and county defender Eoghan Kerin, who did a fine job marking Corofin's danger man Ian Burke. Wing-back Enda Mullarkey also caught the eye at times.

However, their dominance for huge parts of the game came from a top-class performance from Ciaran Duggan around the middle third. Duggan won a load of ball, ruled the skies, and linked play well in an impressive display.

Up front, they were too dependent on Frankie Burke and Damien Comer to make things happen, although Ryan Forde and Conor Moloney also did some good things.

It was a pity Annaghdown could not have left Comer in on the edge of the square in the first half when they had wind advantage to see if he could have unhinged the Corofin full-back line.

Instead he was in a more withdrawn role and was reasonably well marshalled by his county colleague Liam Silke, who also went up field for a valuable point from play.

Corofin had few players who impressed, and they will know another display like that will not be good enough against a well balanced and mobile Mountbellew outfit.

The current county champions would have been beaten, only for a top-class display from veteran full-back Kieran Fitzgerald, who constantly put his body on the line and won a good few balls to hold the line.

Ronan Steede, who had been quiet, really powered into the game when needed most in the last 10 minutes around the middle and he drove at the Annaghdown defence.

However, Corofin's forward play was shambolic at times. The amount of turnovers over the hour was hard to believe.

Martin Farragher, Ian Burke, Gary Sice, Dylan Wall and Micheál Lundy were all out of sorts, and none of them could be happy with their individual contributions.

Michael Farragher at midfield also coughed up a lot of ball and his link play was well below par for a player of his ability.

At one stage in the first half, under no pressure whatsoever, he just turned the ball over to the opposition twice with sloppy kick passes, and that sort of play was indicative of the team's lack of focus.

They are normally key players and leaders on their team, and unless they can rediscover their mo-jo in the next few weeks, then their "drive for five" is going to come unstuck at the final hurdle.

This Corofin squad has won five out of the last six county titles since 2011 - Salthill/Knocknacarra won in 2012, but they looked a tired and listless team last Sunday, lacking intensity and zest.

Annaghdown had them on their knees, but they could not close out the deal, and they will regret that over the coming few weeks.

That proud club's last senior title was in 2001 - their fifth in all - and they will know they let a golden chance of an appearance in another final slip by them last Sunday.

With a bit more composure, experience, and strength in depth off the bench, they would have spent the early part of this week celebrating what would have been a sweet victory for their efforts.

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