There were questions asked about Corofin and how good they really were going into Sunday's Connacht Club Senior Football Championship final, they had swatted aside with ease all that stood before them in Galway and the Leitrim champions Aughawillian hardly raised a glove against them. But make no mistake this current Corofin team are one serious outfit. The bookies had them odds on favorites before the game against a side who in their last two games had beaten the side who had lost in the All Ireland final, just six months earlier and the team who had claimed that same championship the year before.
Stephen Rochford had plan and his troops executed perfectly over the 60 minutes in MacHale Park, Ballintubber will have regrets after this game, but in all honesty, they will know themselves they were beaten by the better and hungrier side on the day. The hunger in Corofin was personified by Gary Sice's fantastic score from out on the MacHale Road side of the ground when the game was done and dusted as a contest and the clock was deep into injury time. Ballintubber will be back, a team with players of the caliber of Cillian O'Connor, Alan Dillon, Jason Gibbons and Micheal Plunkett know no other way than to come back.
In their semi-final win over St Brigid's the Ballintubber midfield of Stephen Broderick and Jason Gibbons lorded their patch of the park, but on Sunday they couldn't get a sniff of dominance as Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede bossed the proceedings from the off and laid down the ground work for their sides success. The Corofin rearguard worked their socks off closing down both Cillian O'Connor and Alan Dillon, choking off both of Ballintubber's most dangerous attacking options. Both Dillon and O'Connor often found themselves back in their own midfield looking for scraps to try and get their attack moving.
The first eight minutes of the game was an error strewn start, with both sides trying to feel each other out on a biting cold day in MacHale Park. Corofin's Ian Burke landed the first score of the day when he pointed a free from close range after Gary Sice was hauled down by Ruaidhiri O'Connor. Burke doubled his sides advantage two minutes later when he was picked out in space by Martin Farragher and Burke fired over from in front of the posts.
Ballintubber got their first score up on the boards after a couple of wides when Cillian O'Connor dragged the ball just inside the near post after Dillon had picked him out. Remarkably that was to be O'Connor's only score from play over the hour and his side only managed to put the ball between the posts once more from open play during the rest of the game.
Corofin had found their groove at this stage and Burke added on his third point on the 12 minute mark and three minutes later Michael Lundy got his sides fourth point with a great score from the stand side of the field. It was all starting to look a bit ominous for Ballintubber as Corofin were really on top in every area of the field. O'Connor responded for Ballintubber with a point from a free, but the Galway champions just went back down the field and added on two more points of their own through Martin Farragher and Burke, leaving Corofin leading by 0-6 to 0-2 with 22 minutes gone. O'Connor tagged on two more points from free's before the break for Ballintubber with Michael Farragher scoring a peach of a point for his sides seventh to leave three between teams at the break.
If Ballintubber were going to have any chance of turning things around they were going to have to hit the ground running at the start of the second half, but it was the Galway champions who burst out of the blocks for the final half-an-hour. Kieran Fitzgerald went on a lung-busting run from his own defence to fist over the first point of the half three minutes in. Five minutes later the decisive score came when Ian Burke intercepted a poor Ballintubber clearance, he fed the ball to Michael Farragher who in turn picked out Gary Sice who made no mistake and drove the ball past Brendan Walsh for the first goal of the game and with it effectively killing off the game as a contest. Ronan Steede drove over a point from out the park from the resulting kick-out and suddenly Corofin were leading by 1-9 to 0-4. Less than a minute later they had another goal to add to their tally after Michael Farragher combined with Sice to set up Burke to palm to the net for the Galway champions second goal and the kindling burning around the bonfires at home as the Shane McGettigan Cup was only heading for one place for the next 12 months. Ballintubber did pull a goal back themselves not long after when Alan Dillon drove home from a tight angle and he followed it up with a nice point from play, but it was only a matter of counting down the clock until the final whistle and confirming Corofin as the Connacht champions for the sixth time in their history and their first since 2009. Next up for them is a trip to London in the All Ireland quarter-final and meeting with Tir Chonail Gaels in Ruislip on Sunday, December 14.
Ballintubber: C O'Connor (0-6, 5f ), A Dillon (1-1 )
Corofin: I Burke (1-4, 1f ), G Sice (1-2 ), Martin Farragher (0-1 ), M Lundy (0-1 ), D Wall (0-1 ), R Steede (0-1 ), P G Delaney (0-1 ), K Fitzgerald (0-1 )
Ballintubber: B Walsh; C Hallinan, D Larkin, B Murphy; M Kelly, M Plunkett, R O'Connor; S Broderick, J Gibbons; D Coleman, D O'Connor, A Plunkett; A Dillon, C O'Connor, P O'Connor. Subs: R Geraghty for P O'Connor (33 ), D Summerville for A Plunkett (38 ), J Geraghty for D Larkin (43 ), D Geraghty for S Broderick (57 )
Corofin:T Healy; L Silke, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; G Higgins, C McGrath, A Burke; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, Michael Farragher, G Delaney; Martin Farragher, M Lundy, I Burke. Subs: D Wall for Martin Farragher (48 ), G Delaney for S Silke (55 BC ), C Cunningham for Michael Farragher (58 ), P Kelly for C McGrath (59 ), M Comer for R Steede (59 )
Ref:P Neilan (Roscommon )