No stopping classy Corofin as they storm to All-Ireland club football title

No way back for Slaughtneil once Michael Lundy fired over three quickfire points

Corofin 1-14 Slaughtneil 0-7

Pure skill will always be the winner in an honest game of football. Corofin had that in such depth and beauty here that this All-Ireland club football final soon turned from contest to exhibition, although not a very exciting one.

Still, 17 years after bringing this title west for the first time, Corofin are bringing it back – comfortably the best club football team in the country.

They’d defeated reigning champions St Vincent’s in the semi-final, and never gave Slaughtneil much hope of victory here, at least not beyond the opening 10 minutes.


Quick succession

Because once Corofin got the ball onto their scoring boots there was simply no stopping them – all six forwards contributing, and none more impressively than Michael Lundy.

He dances with the ball as much as he plays with it, his three first-half points coming in amazingly quick succession, igniting the Galway champions in both spirit and confidence.

For manager Stephen Rochford – a Mayo man who clearly helped develop much of that skill within the Galway club – the 10-point victory margin provided extra satisfaction. Even though Slaughtneil started brightly, the game then suddenly and irrevocably turned into a platform for Corofin's neatly packaged set of football skills.

“We always try to play a fast brand of football, simply because the lads have that skill set with them,” said Rochford.

“But one of the things that also satisfies me most is our ability to get back, work hard. Whether you look at it being one team defensive or not, you’ve got to track and follow your man, and our attitude to do that was super. I just felt we were rightly on the money.

“We also felt that Croke Park was going to be a pitch that suited us. We weren’t going to be able to play the football we wanted without getting the football, so our work-rate and attitude in that aspect were really good.”

The crowd of 29,752 – for the double-bill – were never once at the edge of their seats, because once Lundy fired Corofin in front on 14 minutes, it was one-way traffic. Gary Sice set up Martin Farragher's goal on 17 minutes, and with Slaughtneil only scoring one point in the closing 20 minutes of that first half, Corofin coasted to a 1-8 to 0-3 interval lead.

By then Daithí Burke and Ronan Steede were lording midfield, and 10 minutes into the second half all six starting forwards had scored – Ian Burke the last of those with another point built on irrepressible skill.

Slaughtneil, in complete contrast, struggled to get into scoring positions,

The Derry and first-time Ulster champions appeared to suffer a little stage fright. They possibly could have had a penalty early on, after full forward Paul Bradley seemed to be fouled when bearing down on goal.

But in truth their only moment of class in that first half came from the boot of Chrissy McKaigue.

As it turned out they did get a penalty in injury time, only for Cormac O’Doherty to shoot wide. By then Corofin had already started their celebrations, and an emotional one at that.

Several players on this team have battled hard over the years, and while youngsters like Lundy and Ian Burke may not realise it, players like Kieran Fitzgerald and Gary Sice must have wondered if they'd get another glory day like this in Croke Park. Two years ago defender Ciarán McGrath also suffered a double leg fracture, and was told he may never play football again –yet here he was comfortably manning the defence.

Damage limitation

For Sice, the experience was perfectly evident, especially when it came to his free-taking.

Michael Farragher

– who took over the captaincy this year from Fitzgerald – was continually pulling the strings at centre forward.

All that meant it soon turned into damage limitation for Slaughtneil, and indeed it could have been a lot worse had goalkeeper Antoin McMullan not pulled off a couple of excellent saves, from both Daithí Burke and Martin Farragher, denying him a second goal. Gerard Bradley did keep some pride with his second-half points, but it was never going to be enough to halt a Corofin team who at times played such expansive, skilful football that they were almost too good for themselves.

"Once Corofin got into top gear we didn't compete with them," conceded Slaughtneil selector John Joe Kearney.

“On the balance of the 60 minutes of football, Corofin were by far the better team today. To be honest, we thought we could curtail them a bit better than we did. We didn’t. There are no excuses.”

COROFIN: T Healy; C McGrath, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; G Higgins, A Burke, L Silke (0-1, free); D Burke (0-1), R Steede (0-1); G Sice (0-5, four frees), Michael Farragher (0-1) , G Delaney (0-1); Martin Farragher (1-0), M Lundy (0-3), I Burke. Subs: D Wall for Martin Farragher (49 mins), Justin Burke for Steede (55 mins), M Comer for C Silke, C Cunningham for Higgins (both 56 mins), K Murphy for Delaney, J Canney (0-1) for I Burke (both 57 mins).

SLAUGHTNEIL: A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rodgers, K McKaigue; C Cassidy, C McKaigue (0-1), B McGuigan; Patsy Bradley, P McGuigan; P Kelly (0-1, free), C Bradley (0-1, free), R Bradley; G Bradley (0-3), Paul Bradley (0-1), C O'Doherty. Subs: P McNeill for Cassidy, P Cassidy for R Bradley, S McGuigan for Kelly (all 43 mins), S Kelly for P Bradley, F McEldowney for C Bradley (both 51 mins), P Kearney for B McGuigan (56 mins).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics