Castlebar Mitchels 2-10 Corofin 0-11
In the biting Tuam Stadium cold Corofin manager Stephen Rochford found the words to assess what had happened during an intriguing Connacht decider. Castlebar Mitchels midfielder Barry Moran had dictated the agenda from start to finish. "He was a magnet for the ball," Rochford reflected.
Moran contributed 1-2, and then provided the sweet assist for Neil Douglas’ 45th minute goal. Corofin couldn’t recover as Castlebar Mitchels closed out the deal with the minimum of fuss.
Rochford, who is expected to meet the Mayo County Executive this week, acknowledged Moran's brilliance.
“Barry scored a very, very good goal into the narrow side of the goal. He was the most dominant player on the field without a doubt.”
Ultimately Moran’s excellence was the chief reason Castlebar defeated the All Ireland champions, who were agitated from an early stage. Two years ago in a provincial semi-final a similarly defiant Castlebar performance upset Corofin, who hadn’t been beaten since.
With the stakes piled high this was always likely to be an intense and edgy affair; it didn't disappoint. Kieran Fitzgerald and Martin Farragher landed remarkable points for Corofin, but Castlebar enjoyed their first beautiful burst reeling off 1-3 without reply.
During that enterprising Castlebar spell Moran filched a ninth minute goal confidently drilling home following sharp work from Danny Kirby. That major nudged Castlebar four points ahead, but Corofin hit six of the next eight points before the break as the teams departed deadlocked, 1-5 to 0-8.
When the action recommenced it was similarly tight and tense. Douglas and Dylan Wall traded points, but Castlebar then struck 1-1 inside a splendid 90 second spell. Douglas clipped a delightful point and wriggled clear to make the Corofin net dance following Moran’s thoughtful assist.
"It looked like it was a cracker, I couldn't see perfectly from where I was," Castlebar captain Rory Byrne smiled afterwards.
“To be honest I was roaring to put it over the bar. Goals all year have been our thing. We have scored two or more goals in a lot of our games which has been key.”
Castlebar led 2-8 to 0-10 with 10 minutes remaining when Martin Farragher was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
“It is fair enough to say the second one killed the game of,” Rochford admitted.
“I know Dougie finished it, but it was disappointing that at that stage you were just looking at trying to get yourself back ahead to see if you could stretch the game open. It never materialised that way.”
Richie Feeney and substitute Stephen Keane banged over further Castlebar points as a frustrated Corofin could only muster a Gary Sice free in the dying embers. Having lost an All Ireland decider to St Vincent's in March 2014 Castlebar are content to be kings of Connacht again.
“We have been good all year,” was joint manager Declan O’Reilly’s verdict. “We played in just fits and starts in the semi-final and that actually suited us. It actually suited us coming in that we were slightly under the radar, but we knew what was in us. These guys put in a real top class performance.”
When probed about the current situation in Mayo, Rochford, who guided Corofin to 22 wins and one draw in 25 Championship matches, replied:
"I haven't heard anything formally about a meeting this week. I would assume on the basis of this game and their mediation having come to an end with players that it will happen sooner than later. I have spoken informally to Mike Connelly about what their calendar was a fortnight ago, but I'm sure over the next 48 hours I'l be getting a call to meet with them. It's been an ambition."
CASTLEBAR MITCHELS: R Byrne; T Cunniffe, D Newcombe, A Feeney; R O'Malley, E O'Reilly (0-1, free), P Durcan; G McDonagh, B Moran (1-2); S Hopkins (0-1), N Lydon (0-1), N Douglas (1-3, one free); C Costello, D Kirby, R Feeney (0-1).
Subs: A Walsh for McDonagh (35 mins), J Durcan for Costello (38 mins), F Durkin for Hopkins (44 mins), S Conlon for Newcombe (46 mins), S Keane (0-1) for Lydon (50 mins, black card), R Burke for R Feeney (60 mins).
COROFIN: T Healy; L Silke, K Fitzgerald (0-1), C McGrath; C Cunningham, P Kelly, A Burke; G Higgins, R Steede (0-1); G Sice (0-3, three frees), Michael Farragher, D Wall (0-1); Martin Farragher (0-4, two frees) , M Lundy, I Burke (0-1). Subs: D Burke for Higgins (34 mins), C Silke for McGrath (46 mins), K Molloy for Cunningham (46 mins), J Leonard for Lundy (55 mins, black card). Referee: E O'Grady (Leitrim).