Ian Burke comes on to inspire Corofin to another Connacht title
Cillian O’Connor’s Ballintubber team led at half-time but reigning champions kicked on
Corofin’s Micheal Lundy and Ciaran McGrath lift the trophy. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Corofin (Galway) 2-10 Ballintubber (Mayo) 1-9
Corofin bagged their third Connacht title on the bounce, but not before they underwent a stiff examination from Mayo champions, Ballintubber in what was a repeat of the 2014 final in Castlebar.
In fact, an upset looked on the cards at one stage as a lethargic Corofin side trailed by three points at the break -1-5 to 1-2.
Cillian O’Connor, with a brace of points from play, Alan Dillon and Jason Gibbons were all on target as Ballintubber led by double scores after 25 minutes. Corofin’s two points came via Colm Brady and Martin Farragher. But four minutes before half-time, Michael Lundy latched on to a stray pass, turned inside his man and fired a bullet of a shot to the roof of the net from a tight angle.
It shot the Galway champions into the lead for the first time, but it lasted less than a minute before Alan Plunkett raised a white flag at the other end. Jamsie Finnerty - the two-goal hero against Aughawillian in the Connacht semi-final - then put the Mayo club back in front with a well taken goal. It meant a richly deserved half-time lead for Ballintubber, after they had put all their men behind the ball for the opening 30 minutes and forced Corofin into slow build up play.
Within sight of winning their first ever provincial crown at the interval, things change dramatically in the second half with All-Star Ian Burke playing a pivotal role in turning this game around for the reigning All-Ireland champions.
They registered three rapid points within seven minutes of the restart, including a monstrous effort from Michael Farragher to draw level, before Burke - with his first touch after coming on - found the net.
A long kickout from Corofin goalkeeper, Bernard Power, went over the heads of the midfield men and found Gary Sice who made the hard yards before setting up Burke for the finish.
The intensity of the game had now moved up a few notches and Corofin had reclaimed the territory they had lost at midfield, with Ballintubber turning over a number of balls. Their Galway opponents pounced and punished every mistake.
But unlike four years ago when their challenge faded away, Ballintubber battled back to cut the deficit to a point thanks to two Cillian O’Connor frees, but, in the style of true champions, Corofin hit the next five points.
Burke with a fisted effort, Gary Sice added two frees, a fine point from outstanding half back Kieran Molloy, and an excellent effort from corner-back Liam Silke had the champions up by six with five minutes remaining. They held on to see out their ninth provincial triumph.
Corofin: B Power, C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke (0-1), K Molloy (0-1), D Burke, D Wall, C Brady, R Steede, G Sice (0-3, all frees), Mike Farragher (0-1), J Leonard (0-1), Martin Farragher (0-1), C Brady (0-1), M Lundy (1-0).
Subs: D Silke for Brady (27 mins), I Burke (1-1) for D Silke (42’), D. McHugh for C. Silke (50’), C Cunningham for Wall (56’), D Canney for C Brady (59’), B O’Donovan for D Burke (60’).
Ballintubber: B Walsh, G Loftus, C Hallinan, B Murphy, D Coleman, M Plunkett (0-1), R O’Connor, J Gibbons (0-1), D O’Connor, C. Gavin, A Dillon (0-2), A Plunkett (0-1), B Walsh, C O’Connor (0-4, 0-2 frees) J Finnerty (1-0).
Subs: M Kelly for R O’ Connor (47’), P O’Connor for Gavin (52’), J Geraghty for A Plunkett (56’).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).