St Brigid’s 1-13 Corofin 2-5
Roscommon champions St Brigid’s swept into action on a cold afternoon in Dr Hyde Park to leave hot favourites Corofin dazed and confused in the AIB Connacht club final. They raised the Shane McGettigan Cup for the first time since 2012 when they went on to win the All-Ireland.
There was no sleight of hand about the win either. Brigid’s largely controlled the match from start to finish and but for a couple of goals that acted as flotation devices, Corofin would have been sunk very early in the contest.
As it was, although the match looked retrievable on the scoreboard at various stages, the Galway champions never had the rhythm of a team that was going to find form in time to salvage a result.
Even when their second goal cut the deficit to just one, 1-6 to 2-2, it was Brigid’s who responded to the prompt and took four of the next five scores.
The winners were busy and confident from the start. Brian Stack at full back had a superb afternoon, containing Corofin’s most influential forward, veteran Gary Sice – who was also uncharacteristically wayward with his free taking – and playing a lead role in an excellent full-back line along with Robbie Dolan and Pearse Frost.
He said afterwards that the team had been confident they had the strategy an the wherewithal to win.
“I was confident we’d be there or thereabouts. I think we got our game plan down to a T, stop their kicking game and push up on them in the middle third. We put them under real pressure and also attacked well. I’m delighted.”
The effectiveness of the defensive method restricted the Galway champions to just three scores in the first half and seven overall whereas at the other end, another excellent display, by county forward Ben O’Carroll, spearheaded the attack and persecuted Liam Silke.
Dominant in the opening quarter, Brigid’s led by five before conceding. O’Carroll scored the first point with a kick that bounced in front of Bernard Power’s goal and hopped over the bar. It was an ominous start for Corofin and foreshadowed a match where they continued not to get the bounce of the ball.
Ball that might have ricocheted into their hands in previous matches proved unco-operative on this occasion but in truth this was just a gloss on an afternoon when they were distinctly second best.
It was as if Corofin power sources had been set to economy for most of the first half. They were slow to react to Brigid’s all-action movement, undisciplined in the tackle – allowing for the referee’s slightly puritanical interpretations – and careless in marking both men and space.
The goal that opened them up in saw Paul McGrath race into space and play in Alan Daly who was fouled for a penalty. O’Carroll tucked it away without fuss. 1-2 to no score.
Corofin responded and Conor Cunningham’s 15th minute run up the field ended with a shot cracking off the crossbar, running out for a 45, which Darragh Silke pointed for their first score, already into the second quarter.
It was looking over by the end of the first half but in injury-time, Liam Silke ran brilliantly from the start of a move that ended with his popping up at the finish to get the vital touch to Michael Lundy’s pass across goal for a 1-6 to 1-2 half-time deficit – a distortion of the action but offering hope to the favourites.
“We’ve noticed that Corofin are really good in the third quarter,” said Stack, “they put a big emphasis on the third quarter. So, we were thinking, try and just kill the game a small bit in the first 15 minutes of the second half and then really go at the last 15.
“And I think we did that. There wasn’t a score in the second half for a while, which helped us. But a lot of the talk was just keep doing what we were doing, because it felt like we were the better team in the first half.”
That was an accurate account. Corofin had possession and position in those minutes following the break but their accuracy let them down – Cunningham had another rampaging run but this time the resulting 45 was missed. They did however conjure a goal after Gavin Burke dropped a ball in on goal, which was well moved to Farragher and Dylan McHugh, who tapped it into the net.
The scene was set for Corofin but Stack’s reference to a strong final quarter was vindicated in Brigid’s response, as they outscored their opposition 0-7 to 0-3 over the rest of the match.
The full back managed to push up for a steadying score himself just after Jack McCabe had reduced to two and on the hour provided an assist for Ciarán Sugrue.
He said that he was looking forward to the club’s first All-Ireland campaign since they won 11 seasons ago.
“I was in the stand then, probably jealous, to be honest. Delighted but jealous! My brother was playing so it was obviously a big day for the family. But I was jealous – I wanted that success, and I’m just delighted to be here now.”
They will play Munster champions Dingle or Castlehaven in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
St Brigid’s: C Sheehy; R Dolan, B Stack (0-1), P Frost; R Stack, A Daly, R Fallon (0-1); E Nolan, S Cunnane; B Nugent (0-3, three frees), P McGrath (jt capt), C Hand; B O’Carroll (1-7, one penalty, four frees), B Derwin, C Sugrue (0-1). Subs: J Cunningham for Hand (52 mins), C Gleeson for Derwin (57 mins), S Trundle for McGrath (62 mins).
Corofin: B Power; G Burke, R Mahon L Silke (1-0); D McHugh (capt; 1-0), C Cunningham, B Cogger; P Egan, C Brady; D Silke (0-1, 45), D Wall, Michael Farragher; M Lundy, G Sice (0-2, one free), J McCabe (0-2). Subs: K Molloy for Wall (half-time), C Newell for D Silke (44 mins), D Burke for Farragher (46 mins), G McHugh for G Burke (54 mins), T Gill for Egan (58 mins).
Referee: B Judge (Sligo)