A difference of a few years of age makes a huge difference in underage sport, and that was obvious to all who attended the county u-21 A football final on Saturday in Tuam Stadium.
A fresh, spirited, and young Salthill-Knocknacarra outfit found it tough going against the more seasoned and experienced Corofin team, which won by 1-14 to 0-9 to regain the title at this grade.
Corofin dominated the central diamond where man-of-the-match Michael Farragher, who lined out at number six, midfielders Alan Molloy and Daithí Burke, and centre-forward Ronan Steede, had too much power, experience, and guile for their direct opponents.
That power base around the middle gave them the platform to supply their inside line with plenty of high quality possession and county minor Ian Burke and Colm O’Donovan notched 0-8 (1f ) between them. Molloy, Daithí Burke and Steede also scored a combined 1-04, and those scores were central in turning the game Corofin’s way.
Salthill’s chances of causing a major upset were not helped by the unavailability of centre-back and senior player Gearoid Canavan through illness.
Yet even without him and with seven minors in their starting 15, they tore into their opponents from the outset and had good early scores from the lively Gearóid Armstrong and Seán Hughes.
The key score of the game went to Corofin just before half-time and was provided by the impressive Alan Molloy, who tore through from midfield to get on the end of a pass and shoot powerfully to the back of Greg Sheedy’s net.
The victors led by 1-6 to 0-4 at the break and looked like they could pull away to a comprehensive win in the second half.
To their credit, Kevin Johnson’s team stuck to their task and further points from Armstrong, Hughes and Ronan Conlon gave their supporters something to cheer.
Corofin were always likely to be too strong to lose this final though, and a brace of points by Steede and a good effort by influential substitute Oisín Mannion meant there was going to be no shock win for the Seasiders to add to the county minor title they won earlier in the year.
Farragher and Steede likely to be in Oz next year
The victory was a nice way for Corofin to sign off on what has been an eventful year for the club.
Some of the u-21s from Saturday may push on and become regulars in the senior set-up in 2012. However, the likelihood that two of their key players, Mike Farragher and Ronan Steede, will be heading to Australia next year is a big blow to the club’s chances of putting senior titles back to back.
Enda Fleming, Eanna Langan, Michael Lundy and Aenis Lawless also produced solid displays in their side’s win.
Salthill will take heart from their performance and the vast majority of their panel have a few more years at this grade. They had some notable displays and team captain Conor O’Halloran, Greg Sheedy, Robert Butler, Gearoid Armstrong, Sean Hughes and substitute Michael Kitt all caught the eye.
Their management team of Kevin Johnson, Tom Joyce, Cian Begley and Tom Burke will feel their panel has learnt a lot from the year and will be a better and more experienced side next year. They will also be a year older and physically stronger for the fray.
Corofin: Tom Healy, Cathal Silke, Conor Keady, Aenis Lawless, Enda Fleming, Mike Farragher, Eanna Langan, Alan Molloy (1-0 ), Daithí Burke (0-1 ), Michael Lundy (0-1 ), Ronan Steede (0-3, 1f ), Ronan Burke, Colm O’ Donovan (0-4, 1f ), Ian Burke (0-4 ), Adrian Molloy. Subs used: Oisín Mannion (0-1 ), Conor Cunningham, Pakie Coen, Peter Gallagher.
Salthill/Knocknacarra: Greg Sheedy, Evan Wynne, Cian McGinn, Jack Killeen, Michael Rafferty, Seán Ó Leighinn, Enda Gavin, Conor O’ Halloran, Robert Butler, Ronan Conlon (0-1 ), Brian Conlon, Mattie Heskin, Evan Duffy, Gearóid Armstrong (0-5, 3fs ), Sean Hughes (0-3, 2fs ). Subs used: Michael Kitt, Andrew Butler, Niall Conroy, Brian Seagrave, Niall Kane.