Mountbellew/Moylough and Corofin will have to do it all over again on Sunday week in Tuam Stadium to decide the winners of the 2009 football championship after a tense, but poor quality, first offering last Sunday afternoon.
Conditions were ideal and there was a good crowd for what was hoped would be a fluid and open game of exciting championship football. That did not materialise.
Instead those in attendance witnessed a drab, dingy, error-ridden encounter, only lifted out of its mediocrity by some fine individual displays by Joe Bergin, Alan Burke, Greg Higgins, Joseph Meehan, Kieran Fitzgerald, and a tremendous run and score by Patrick Gardiner.
In fact Corofin’s wastefulness in front of the posts almost cost them a second bite of the cherry.
They were shockingly inept with a lot of their shooting and they must improve in that department if they expect to win the replay.
My pen almost ran out of ink marking down Corofin wides in the first half. They shot nine in that 30 minutes and that lack of composure and guile up front will have to be addressed on the training field over the next 10 days.
Had they been more efficient in front of the goals early on, they could have found themselves five or six points to the good at half time. Instead they led by only the narrowest of margins, 0-6, to 0-5.
Those bevy of misses eked away at the players’ confidence and gave a lot of belief and hope to Mounbellew.
No doubt the feeling at half time in the black and amber dressing-room was… “C’mon lads. We have not played at all yet and we are still only a point down. If those Corofin forwards fell into a barrel of sweets, they’d come out sucking their thumbs.”
For Mountbellew the tactic of starting Joe Bergin at full-forward did not work. Very little ball came his way and what did was won in the main by his county colleague Kieran Fitzgerald.
However when Bergin was switched to midfield the tide turned and the influence of the impressive Greg Higgins was quelled to a certain degree. Higgins still kicked two fine points from play and will have been a name scribbled into Joe Kernan’s little black book.
Mountbellew’s wing-forward Joe Meehan hit some fine frees from distance and his accuracy was augmented by two points by the raiding Joss Moore and an inspirational effort by team captain Patrick Gardiner after he scuttled through the middle of the Corofin defence to slot over the best individual score of the game.
Gardiner and Moore’s industry and enterprise was needed as none of the Mountbellew forwards or midfielders managed to score a single point from play. There was perhaps a degree of nervousness by some of the Mountbellew forwards and they never looked as smooth and confident as they did in the semi-final when they took Caltra for 3-11.
Their management team of Cyril Ryan, Martin Boyle, and James Foran will be hoping that having played in a first county final, they will have none of those butterflies on Sunday week and that they will start better and settle to the task earlier.
Lack of discipline
Two of Corofin’s most valuable and experienced campaigners will be annoyed with themselves and so will team manager Ger Keane for giving Mountbellew some badly-needed momentum at crucial stages.
Former All-Star Kieran Fitzgerald ,who had a terrific game throughout, was harshly judged to have fouled Bergin early on, but then in an example of what not to do after the referee has penalised you, he imprudently threw the ball away and made a difficult free for Joe Meehan into a tap over. That easy point was his team’s first score and helped to settle them and him into the game.
Likewise Aidan Donnellan, who has been playing in county finals since 1993 and has eight winners’ medals, got involved when a free had been given to his team near the end of the game. After a bit of jostling Frank Kinneen threw up the ball and Mounbellew won possession.
Subsequently Bergin marvellously converted his late long-range free to equalise the match and indeed they looked the more likely team to win it in the final few minutes. Games can turn on such small incidents and which ever team is to win the replay need to keep such acts of indiscipline and silliness to the bare minimum.