In a superb advertisement for the GAA, defending champions Corofin and newcomers Gaoth Dobhair produced an action-packed club semi-final in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday afternoon.
If all teams played their football like this, there would have been no need for the GAA to make any new rules. Both teams had tactics and game plans, but they both played the game the way football should be played, with plenty of kick passing, quick hand passes when necessary, and with all the skills that are taught from a young age.
In the end, however, Corofin's experience at this level - their fifth semi-final in recent years - was decisive. But Gaoth Dobhair more than played their part, reeling the north Galway team in whenever they started to look complacent. But it simply was not enough for the defending champions who finished 2-13 to 1-12 winners.
The quick movement from Corofin’s forwards will almost certainly make this year’s final against Dr Crokes much more competitive than the semi final of 2017, when Corofin lost by 2-11 to 0-8.
Defeat still hurts
The Connacht champions will be looking for revenge from that last meeting. Crokes were the last team to beat them in championship football, and the manner of that defeat, still hurts.
Gary Sice finished Saturday's semi-final with 1-7 and man of the match, but the accolade could easily have been awarded to multiple players of both teams. Sice, however, edged it out due to mainly the timing of his scores. Most came at key times, and he put Corofin in control with his early goal, and then frees in the second half. It ensured Corofin could lift their game whenever the Donegal men really started to threaten a comeback.
Gaoth Dobhair had narrowed the margin to two points towards the end of the game, but Corofin squeezed up on their kickouts, won some valuable turnovers, and closed out the game with two quick points.
Dr Crokes and Corofin share the last two Andy Merrigan wins between them and many purists would have wished for this game as a final match up. Both teams play an attractive attacking brand of football and have many neutrals looking forward to this 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 ).