Corofin and Tuam will meet in Tuam Stadium in two weeks' time in this year’s county final as they overcame the challenges of Salthill-Knocknacarra and Moycullen respectively.
Corofin will be searching for their seventh Frank Fox Cup in succession, a feat which would equal that of the great Tuam Stars team which achieved seven in a row from 1954 to 1960. Add into the equation that these two are age-old rivals, with Tuam Stars being the last team to defeat Corofin in the Galway championship, and it has the makings of a superb final.
In Saturday evening's semi-final, Corofin saw off Salthill-Knocknacarra in Tuam Stadium by 1-16 to 2-09. Although Corofin started the game without Kieran Fitzgerald, Michael Farragher, Daithí Burke and Micháel Lundy, they still won with relative ease.
Early points from Martin Farragher, Ian Burke and frees from the boots of Jason Leonard and Gary Sice saw Corofin race into an early lead. However, the Seasiders were still threatening at the other end with the trickery of Robert Finnerty catching the eye on a few occasions. It was Finnerty’s scores and general play which kept Salthill-Knocknacarra in the game in that first half.
The key moment of the game came in the 20th minute when Ronan Steede took a shot for point from distance which was dropping short. It appeared to be a routine catch for keeper Ruairi Lavelle, but he ultimately spilled the ball into his own net possibly due to the low October sun in his sight line. That Steede goal, coupled with a fine Dylan McHugh point from wing back, put Corofin in a commanding lead, 1-08 to 0-04.
After the break both sides traded blows with the intensity dropping, and scores seeming harder to come by early on. However, Anthony Finnerty’s side was given a lifeline when a lung-bursting run from Cathal Sweeney resulted in a penalty and black card for Corofin’s Liam Silke. Anthony’s son Robert buried the penalty to reduce the margin between the sides to four.
Corofin pushed on from here, tapping on a few points - a beauty from the left foot of Ronan Steede from distance being the score of the day. Kevin O’Brien’s side was unfortunate not to have a penalty when Martin Farragher was taken down off the ball inside the rectangle by keeper Ruairi Lavelle. Referee Austin O’Connell deemed it to be a free in.
Salthill-Knocknacarra finished the game with a late flurry of scores to give the champions a small fright. A goal and a point from substitute Andrew Butler, along with a point and a rattle of the crossbar by Robert Finnerty, left four between the sides at the end.
Corofin will be concerned that yet again they let the opposition back into the game in the dying moments.
Tuam v Moycullen
In the other semi-final, Tuam Stars prevailed by 3-11 to 1-12 in Pearse Stadium on Sunday afternoon with an impressive second-half performance by Tommy Carton’s team against a disappointing Moycullen. The use of Tuam’s bench and their strength to push on in the final quarter of the game was eye-catching.
Moycullen started the brighter of the two, albeit aided by a strong coastal breeze. Dessie Conneely was a constant thorn for the Tuam defence, winning ball in front of his marker all day long.
After the sides traded the first two scores, with the lively Ben O’Connell notching two for Tuam, Moycullen appeared to be stamping their authority on the game. They led 0-05 to 0-02 until Ben O’Connell weaved his way through the Moycullen defence to set up Jamie Murphy who rattled the back of the net to level the game. However, almost immediately Moycullen went down the field, and when Dessie Conneely took on his marker and hand-passed to Neil Walsh who palmed into an empty net, Moycullen went into half-time with a 1-06 to 1-02 lead.
However, the second half told a different tale. Tuam overpowered Moycullen with sheer determination and a work-rate to which Moycullen had no answer. Though missing the injured Seán Kelly, no leaders appeared when the chips were down.
Tuam clawed back a few points - a super score from distance from Mikey Mannion was the pick of the bunch. The town side levelled the game at the midpoint of the second half when Brian Mannion and Jamie Murphy combined for the latter to finish low beyond the Moycullen goalkeeper, when the Moycullen defence was nowhere to be seen.
The crucial score of the game came shortly after. The superb Ben O’Connell intercepted a short kick-out and rounded the keeper to slot home off his left foot.
Moycullen replied with a fine Dessie Conneely score, but ultimately they had no response to Tuam’s hard runners, with Rory O’Connor impressing from the bench. Late points from Mikey Mannion and another from Conor Rhatigan saw Tuam cross the line comfortably.