Corofin had been topped all season as the ‘likely lads’ to win the Frank Fox in 2013 – and they showed why they were such hot favourites on Sunday when they produced a superb display to leave Salthill/Knocknacarra trailing miles in their wake.
Corofin were impressive all over the field as they chalked up their 15th county championship success (equalling Dunmore MacHales ), and their eighth in the past 15 years by 2-13 to 0-7.
The 12-point victory demonstrates the gap in performance between the two sides, and Stephen Rochford and David Morris’s charges could have won by another seven or eight points.
As a result the last quarter was a total bore-fest - played at a pedestrian pace as both sides knew the contest was well over and that it was only a matter of playing out time before Kieran Fitzgerald could collect the trophy for his second time as Corofin captain.
I even saw referee Máirtin Ó Flaithearta, who did a good job officiating, give a long look at his watch with about 10 minutes to go and there were few in the 4,000 plus crowd who would have objected if he had called a halt to proceedings at that juncture.
Corofin’s pace, conditioning, fitness and hunger were superb, and it was epitomised by a fantastic display by Gary Sice at wing-forward. The Belclare man was terrific, and he produced the finest display I have seen from him at club level.
From the throw-in, his powerful running and sheer pace and forcefulness had the Salthill rear-guard in dire trouble. He won two penalties, scored 1-4 (4fs ) and was a player Cathal McGinley’s team could not stop. He was the obvious choice for man-of-the-match.
That said, Sice was not the only player to produce a top class display, and his near neighbour in Belclare, Kieran Comer, also rolled back the years with a tremendous display at midfield. The former Galway player was excellent throughout, hugely influential, and he enjoyed a phenomenal amount of ball that he invariably used well.
It was a midfield performance that reminded many people of Gerry Burke at his best with the club in the late 1990s.
The problem for Salthill is that they were beaten in so many positions that they did not know where to turn, nor did they have the manpower to turn things around.
Corofin had top performers in every line - Kieran Fitzgerald, Greg Higgins, Michael Comer, Aineis Lawless and youngster Liam Silke in defence, Comer and Steede at midfield, and up front, Sice, Michael Farragher , Joe Canney and Ian Burke.
Salthill knew they were in trouble early on, but they rallied and hit a few scores late in the first half. Had they scored a few points early in the second half, they might have made a contest of it.
However, when Steede, with a fine-pointed effort, and Sice, with a marvellous goal, rattled in 1-1 just after half time, it was curtains for last year’s champions.
Conor Healy and a few others did keep the good fight going for as long as they could, but they were taking on so much water it was hard to keep the boat bailed out.
Corofin will face either Castlebar or Breaffy from Mayo at Tuam in three weeks in the Connacht club championship and, if they can reproduce a display like they did last Sunday, they will be hard stopped. Injuries to Daithí Burke and Gary Delaney will not help their cause and both men will struggle to be back over the next few weeks.
The players and management team will not be looking any further than that tie, even if many neutral supporters are already talking about a possible rematch with their nemesis over the past few years, St Brigids (Roscommon ) – who are the current All-Ireland champions, later on in the autumn.
No doubt, the Mayo champions will love to hear such imprudent chatter.
Scorers for Corofin: G Sice 1-4 (0-4f ), K Comer 1-2 (1-0 pen ), M Farragher 0-2, G Higgins, B ODonovan, R Steede, G Delaney & P Hanly 0-1 each. Scorers for S-Knocknacarra: S Armstrong 0-3 (1f ), S Crowe (1f ) & D O’Flaherty 0-2 each.
Corofin: T Healy, M Comer, K Fitzgerald (cpt ), A Lawless, B O’Donovan, G Higgins, L Silke, R Steede, K Comer, G Sice, D Burke, M Farragher, I Burke, J Canney, G Delaney. Subs: M Lundy for D Burke (35 ), P Hanly for O’Donovan (43 ), A Burke for Steede (55 ), C Silke for Lawless (55 ), P Kelly for Fitzgerald (55 ).
Salthill/Knocknacarra: S Nallen, A Callanan, F Hanley, C Begley, C Halloran, G Canavan, S Gavin, D Tierney, J Boylan, C Healy, S Armstrong, B Conlon, G Cox, S Crowe (cpt ), A Kerins. Subs: D OFlaherty for Canavan (16 ), C Treacy for Begley (20 ), G O’Leidhinn for Conlon (39 ), R Butler for Tierney (50 ), K Conlon for Gavin (54 ).