Laune deal well with the awful weather to win
WHAT is it about the All-Ireland club championships, sponsored by AIB, that attracts such foul weather? Yesterday's All-Ireland football semi-final, endured by 7,500 "souls in Ennis, was played out in the most awful conditions seen since last year's final at Croke Park left even the hardiest followers whimpering in pain from the cold.
Through the cold and intermittently driving rain, Laune Rangers and Corofin served up a moderately interesting match despite both their strengths being thoroughly inconvenienced by the weather.
Laune managed to string together enough of their preferred short game to win, but Corofin were unable to play to their talented young corner forwards, Derek Reilly and Shane Conlisk, and consequently never convincingly looked in the hunt.
It might have been different had the Galway champions converted some of the chances that constituted their eight first-half wides, but the elements probably contributed to the statistic, which Laune replicated in the second half when the wind was behind them.
Even Corofin's second point, from Shane Conlisk, could have been a goal, as it dropped in alarmingly on Peter Lyons's goal before going over the bar, rather than anywhere more damaging.
One influential difference between the sides was the performance of Timmy Fleming at midfield for Laune. Given his side's tendency to whizz around frenetically, Fleming's control and vision was particularly important. Ironically, in the light of their style of play. some of Laune's better points came from accurately placed early ball.
The winners' defence came through the afternoon quite well, with Paudie Sheahan, at full back. and Tommy Byrnes. in front of him, imposing their physiques to useful effect. Nonetheless, they started a bit ropily and presented Corofin with a 10-metre free in the third minute when the ball was picked off the ground, a foul committed under no apparent pressure. Michael Donnellan - who was to score the rest of his frees - obligingly missed.
It was the first of a succession of bad wides by the Connacht team and by the half-time whistle it was obvious that they would pay the price for their profligacy. At that stage, they led by only a point, 0-3 to 0-2. Laune had got into their stride and after a disjointed opening quarter, were beginning to find a rhythm.
Laune started the afternoon with the expected announcement that captain Gerard Murphy had failed to shake off an injury to his shoulder. His place was taken by Billy O'Sullivan, who scored four goals in the 1990 All-Ireland under-21 final (a statistic his subsequent career has failed to make fade away).
O'Sullivan went in at corner forward, with Billy O Se coming out to the wing, where he had a fine, busy match, and scored a couple of points. The pattern established by the Kerry champions included a densely packed midfield and a stripped-down attack, which was released by waves of short-passing out of the congested area.
The effect was to baulk Corofin's orthodox midfield pairing of Gerry Burke and Padraig Glynn and deprive their forwards of serviceable ball.
Corofin's one remaining chance was to keep their lead intact for as long as possible into the second half and hope that Laune would become frustrated. In the event, it took only six minutes for Fleming to swing over the equalising point - after Tom Greaney had intercepted smartly to deny O Se a likely goal - and within another two minutes, Laune moved two points clear.
A measure of Laune's confidence was that Conor Kearney was put straight through for the fifth point, which he took despite being one-on-one with Martin McNamara in the Corofin goal.
The Galway team managed a mini-revival in.the middle of the second half when Donnellan kicked two frees to trim the deficit to one point, but even then they didn't look like turning the match around. Of the two frees, one was needlessly conceded and the other was a dubious award. Corofin weren't scoring from play, and finished the match without doing so again.
Mike Hassett took his second point in the 49th minute - combining with Billy O'Sullivan after a perceptive ball from Fleming - to stretch the lead to two. Thereafter, Donnellan swapped his third free with a striking long-range point from play by Laune's Joe Shannon to see out the match.
The final on St Patrick's Day promises a good deal. Laune and Eire Og play a similar game