A goal inside a minute of the restart put Mayo champions Ballintubber firmly in control of this Connacht championship quarterfinal tie against Glencar-Manorhamilton at MacHale Park, Castlebar, on Sunday.
Kevin O’Brien’s Corofin side made history on Sunday with a hard-fought 0-11 to 0-8 victory over a stubborn Tuam Stars in the replayed Galway Senior Football Championship final.
The reigning champions equalled the Stars' record of seven consecutive Galway titles, and now progess to defend their All Ireland crown.
It was a final played in awful conditions in Tuam Stadium, the weekend’s weather having wreaked havoc with the playing surface. Persistent rain over the weekend resulted in tricky underfoot and handling conditions, yet, given these such difficulties, the game featured ample moments of quality even if handling errors were greater than usual.
Corofin started the brightest with a slick move that saw Jason Leonard get on the end of a score within the first 60 seconds. Moments later Kieran Molloy flashed a goal chance wide of Johnny Trayer’s right hand post which was followed by a Leonard free.
Corofin appeared to be in rampant form, but failure to convert chances allowed Tuam to grab a foothold in the game. Jamie Murphy opened his account with a simple free and a super score from the right wing by Gary O’Donnell came shortly after.
Tuam, however, got to grip with Corofin’s early dominance and started to carve out numerous openings. The the two sides traded two points through Michael Farragher and a Sice free for Corofin, with Brian Mannion and Darragh O’Rourke notching for Tuam. Mannion’s score, in particular, was a peach as he turned Corofin veteran Kieran Fitzgerald inside out before striking beautifully off his left.
The momentum was with the town side and they entered half-time a point up, 0-5 to 0-4 - Rory O’Connor having struck shortly before the interval, while Jamie Murphy put Tuam two up early on after the break with a point off his right from play.
Corofin, however, soon began to put the squeeze on, and whatever was said in the Corofin dressing-room at half-time worked wonders as they began to strangle the life out of their opposition.
Martin Farragher grabbed his first point having latched onto a loose ball in the Tuam backline, and a wave of Corofin pressure followed. Leonard struck another from play when he was quickest to the rebound of Dylan McHugh’s goal chance, which struck the bar.
Just as Corofin began to roll on the subs, Ben O’Connell responded for Tuam with a beautiful strike off his left foot to edge them in front again. It did not last long. Sice produced an equalising free and Ronan Steede struck the score of the day from around the ’45 metre line point to put the champions one up.
They never looked back thereafter. Another Farragher score, a Sice free, and a wonderfully-worked score for Molloy ended Corofin’s scoring, and Tuam’s only response was a late Jamie Murphy free.
Tuam will be left to rue missed opportunities in the first-half during their purple patch when Murphy missed two routine frees, while other players were guilty of dropping the ball short into Corofin’s Bernard Power’s hands which only gave a side like Corofin energy.
Tommy Carton’s Tuam Stars' side, nonetheless, are a force to be reckoned with and they will no doubt be the business end of the championship again next year.
Corofin, however, are the champions and have another county title, a reward for hard-work and determination. The intensity of their tackling up front in the second-half suffocated their opponents and was the foundation for them to pull ahead by a significant enough margin.
They begin yet another Connacht campaign this Sunday in Tuam Stadium where they face Mayo champions Ballintubber, who have yet to beat Corofin in three previous meetings. Ballintubber were 1-11 to 0-9 winners over Glencar-Manorhamilton at MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday.
It promises to be a cracker.