Once their nemesis, St Brigid’s prove no match for Corofin
Roscommon champions fail to roll back the years in one sided Connacht final in Carrick
Corofin’s Jason Leonard celebrates scoring his side’s second goal. Photograph: Inpho
What a performance on which to draw the curtains on the autumn season in the west.
As the club championship narrows down to the final four, there is, of course, no guarantee that Corofin, the Galway champions, will repeat their 2015 All-Ireland triumph. But few teams can match the easy synchronicity of their play in full flow.
This was a classic club championship scene: midday traffic jams in Carrick-on-Shannon, winter headwear which may well contravene the Offences against the State Act; darkness falling by one o’clock; the St Brigid’s pipe band in full regalia and a small club team playing luminous football in late November.
St Brigid’s, once their nemesis, were chasing shadows here and from the time that Michael Farragher riffled Corofin’s 12th minute goal, it seemed inevitable that they would close in on their seventh Connacht title.
In the first five minutes, Corofin concocted two fine points and a goal chance and oozed menace all over the field. At 1-8 to 0-3, the contest felt over at half time and interest was held only in the exceptional quality of Corofin’s movement and the quality of their passing and decision making.
An aspiring coach could break down any one of their scores for examples of doing simple things right but their last point before half-time stands out.
The Roscommon champions periodically tried to press Corofin in the middle third of the pitch and forced Ronan Steede out towards the sideline, where he shipped two tackles and managed to stay inside the pitch.
His options were limited to just one infield pass and right on queue, Farragher appeared to give him the perfect angle, collected the ball and played a pass to Gary Sice, who wasted no time in clipping a point.
His goal, in the 42nd minute, underlined the venomous streak within the team: Lundy won a free deep down field, St Brigid’s didn’t track back quickly enough and within 10 seconds a snap-pass from Sice played Leonard through.
Frankie Dolan could have done little here except perhaps roll off the manager’s bib and a few years and send himself into the action. It was a tough day for a proud club.
“No. Not surprised they were All Ireland champions the year before last but we knew all about them and how good they were,” Dolan said afterwards as the Galway club celebrated.
“We gave them too much space, we stood off them, they could do what they wanted,” he said afterwards.
“They bossed us and bullied us around the field which is disappointing from our point of view. Probably the only one that really stood up was Darragh Donnelly and Darragh Sheehy but after that we were shocking poor all over the field. You’ll have days like that and it’s a disappointment but that’s life.
“ They are very good, very physical and they move the ball well but I keep going back to it. If you let good players play and give them space… we gave them so much space they could do what they want and if they gave us that space we’d look good so it is disappointing but it is going to take a right good team to beat Corofin this year.”
St Brigid’s aren’t the force they were three years ago but Dolan was right: there was little intensity in their approach and they seemed addled by the crispness of the Corofin ball work. A series of bad wides worsened the appearance of the scoreboard and they never looked like getting into the game in the second half, registering a solitary free until Padraig Kelly’s injury time point.
But it was a day to sit back and admire the collective ball play of the Corofin men, who achieved a harmony that only the better county sides can aspire to. Their defence was completely in control, dealing with the early series of high balls delivered towards Senan Kilbride and running the show afterwards.
“The Castlebar game probably stood to us,” said Kevin O’Brien, Corofin’s manager.
“We were at a different level. A lot of guys probably picked up knocks in that game and hadn’t trained but I was happy that our preparation was good and we started off well. The first 20 minutes we did well and Mike Farragher’s goal was crucial and it was a reflection of our dominance.”
As O’Brien pointed out, many of the team were Under-14 when Corofin and St Brigid’s last met so the historical edge wasn’t a concern. They have time now to sit back and consider that they rank alongside Clann naGael as the most crowned Connacht championship sides.
The view must be nice but bigger challenges await them in the dark months ahead.
Corofin: 1 B Power; 2 C Silke, 3 K Fitzgerald, 4 L Silke, 5 K Molloy, 6 C McGrath, 20 A Cunningham; 8 D Burke (0-1), 9 R Steede; 10 G Sice (0-4, 1 free), 11 D Wall (0-1), 12 J Leonard (1-3, 2 frees); 13 I Burke (0-1), 14 M Farragher (1-2), 15 M Lundy (0-1).
Substitutes: 19 B O’Donovan for K Molloy (47 mins), 7 A Burke for C Cunningham (54 mins), 23 D Canney for J Leonard (57 mins), 21 K Murphy for D Wall (57 mins), 25 G Higgins for L Silke (57 mins), 17 J Canney for I Burke (61 mins).
St Brigid’s: 1 S Mannion; 2 N McInerney, 3 D Donnelly, 4 D Sheehy; 5 P Kelly (0-1), 6 N Grehan, 7 R Stack; 8 M Daly, 9 G Dolan; 17 C Murray, 11 D Dolan, 10 E Sheehy (0-2); 12 B Stack, 14 S Kilbride, 15 K Mannion (0-2 frees).
Substitutes: 13 C McHugh for C Murray, 19 D Cunniffe for M Daly (41 mins), 25 A Gleeson for G Dolan (57 mins), 20 J Murray for N Grehan (57 mins).
Referee: J Henry.