An inquisitive audience filed into Pearse Stadium seeking confirmation of Corofin’s return to eminence. Though Eastern Harps brought aggression and ardour to Salthill they were unable to deal with an evolving Corofin outfit that is visibly improving as the weeks roll by with confidence coursing through their system.
In the harsh environs of November when it’s cold, mucky, and character is being examined, Corofin usually seek to adopt their renowned running game. It was precisely what occurred.
With the underfoot conditions deemed soft following the trademark Saturday night rain spillage a war of attrition was expected to materialise, that it didn’t was testament to Corofin’s savvy and sharpness.
From the outset of 2008 there has been the cut of a serious outfit about Corofin, and this was a defining hour. When referee Vincent Neary called a halt to proceedings the abiding image was of manager Jimmy and talisman Gary Sice’s jubilant hug. Another item of silverware added to the Corofin collection, one that has been yearned for a decade.
Considering Corofin’s recent history is peppered with county titles, nine in 18 seasons, it was provincial honours that were craved. This was Corofin’s fifth Connacht campaign since the salad year of 1998 when all of Ireland was conquered. Could that happen again in 2009?
It was unavoidably furious early on as the football was all about courage and commitment. Corofin, aided by the breeze, had drilled two wides before Alan Burke sauntered forward to rifle over a cool point. The shot selection was wild, but Aidan Donnellan added a second score, but by then Corofin were squandering a glut of opportunities.
Despite the initial inaccuracy Corofin had four on the board courtesy of further frees from the enterprising Gary Sice and Alan O’Donovan. A passionate roar of approval greeted Eastern Harps’ first point in the 24th minute when Raymond Hammond split the uprights, but it was merely a brief interruption of Corofin’s dominance.
Before the interval Joe Canney and an opportunistic O’Donovan contribution stretched Corofin’s advantage to five. In winter football that is a sizeable margin, but Corofin weren’t satisfied.
The endeavour of Sice, Trevor Burke, and David Hanly in a mobile half forward line ensured Corofin’s dominance had been utter and the contest followed a similar pattern after the restart. While Corofin were now playing into the teeth of the wind they had sufficient players capable of breaking tackles and creating space with their industrious approach.
Indeed Corofin both outmanoeuvred and outscored the Sligo standard bearers in the third quarter. Sice, relevant throughout, O’Donovan, and a Killeen brace were added to the account during this spell, and while Harps hit three in the same time frame they weren’t inflicting too much damage.
Such was Corofin’s supremacy, gilt edged goal chances were now being carved too. On three occasions O’Donovan failed to rattle the Harps net, but it scarcely mattered as the only issue needing clarification was the final winning margin.
With Damien Burke anchoring the defence with authority, Kieran Fitzgerald restricting Paul Taylor’s influence, Greg Higgins and Aidan Donnellan the midfield masters, and the pacy attackers functioning, Corofin closed the deal without fuss or fanfare. They will now hit London town on January 18 for an All Ireland quarter final with Tir Chonaill Gaels, a task that will be embraced with their customary composure.
Corofin: B Power; G Delaney, K Fitzgerald, K McGrath; M Comer, D Burke, A Burke (0-1 ); G Higgins, A Donnellan (0-1 ); G Sice (0-2, 1f ), T Burke, D Hanly; J Killeen (0-2 ), J Canney (0-2 ), A O’Donovan (0-3, 2fs ). Subs: K Comer for T Burke (45 mins ), D Morris for Killeen (50 mins ), T Goggins for A Burke (60 mins ), S Monaghan for Sice (60 mins ).
Eastern Harps: B McHugh; R Donovan, P McGovern, K Cryan (0-1 ); S King, B Phillips, K Gallagher; T Taylor, P Grady; M Doddy, J Rafferty, T Cryan (0-1, 45 ); R Hannon (0-1, f ), P Taylor (0-2, 2fs ), D O’Grady. Subs: J Lynch for Hannon (30 mins ), K Phillips for Grady (43 mins ), K Carty (0-1 ) for Cryan (50 mins ), P Rafferty for McGovern (58 mins ).
Referee: V Neary (Mayo )