Champions Corofin can counter the best laid plans

Corofin navigated their way to a ninth Connacht senior club title in MacHale Park yesterday with a mature performance.

A tense encounter littered with handling errors won’t bother Corofin as they once again showed they can poke holes in the opposition’s packed blanket defence.

It would be unfair to label Ballintubber as a negative team. They weren’t. But like so many other club teams that have tried to curb the yellow and green machine they looked confused as to their actual game-plan.

Corofin navigated their way to a ninth Connacht senior club title in MacHale Park yesterday with a mature performance.

In the first half, the Mayo men decided to attack every Corofin restart. The ploy worked brilliantly. They won six out of the nine long kickouts from Corofin’s Bernard Power. 

Jason Gibbons was lording the aerial battle. There was three ‘marks’ in the game and Gibbons won two of these in the first ten minutes. Alan Dillon was the beneficiary of these two marks but unfortunately, the Fine Gael candidate could only convert one of those chances. 

Crucially for Corofin, Power went short with his next kickout and they started their running game. While Corofin were moving the ball down the left flank, the Ballintubber lads sprinted back inside their own half and waited for it to arrive. The strategy worked well in the first half as countless times the Mayo men intercepted loose Corofin handpasses and energised their team and supporters. But can it be considered a good tactic?”

It’s only good if you do something constructive when you win the ball back - like scoring. Ballintubber stripped the ball back but, more often than not, lost possession in the Corofin half-back line. They tried several long balls into Cillian O’Connor and while he undoubtedly won his duel against Kieran Fitzgerald, he could only manage two points from play.

The quality of kick-passes aimed into O’Connor were mostly poor. The great white hope that the “offensive-mark” will create more scores wasn’t evident yesterday. Two balls were caught cleanly inside either 45m line yesterday as O’Connor and Fitzgerald caught one apiece.

In contrast, Corofin only got one real chance to put a long kick-pass into space in the first half. Ronan Steede flicked a lovely effort over the Ballintubber half-back line to the onrushing Liam Silke. Silke was through on goal but instead of shooting, he offloaded to Michael Lundy who somehow shook off two challengers to goal, off his left. Ballintubber response to Lundy’s rocket was a slick, left-footed slider under the advancing Bernard Power from James Finnerty.

That strike left them 1-5 to 1-2 ahead at half-time but the All-Ireland champions refused to panic.

The Corofin team hit three points on the bounce to level the match. The best of these is a boomer from Mike Farragher to draw the teams level at 1-5 apiece. Central to their surge are Power’s restarts. He finds a teammate with four out of his five kick-outs in the second half. He launches a ‘Rory Beggan’ special and finds Gary Sice on the Ballintubber half-back line. Sice runs hard at the Ballintubber goal, offloads a hand-pass into sub Ian Burke who sidesteps and then fires to the net. Game over.

But Ballintubber’s hopes don’t die with the goal - their biggest damage to their hopes is the fact they can’t win a kick-out. Brendan Walsh takes 12 restarts in the second half, Corofin win nine of these and outscore Ballintubber 1-8 to 0-4 in the period. Corofin don’t allow Ballintubber time to set up a packed defence by simply attacking every restart and moving the ball quickly and effectively into their playmaker Burke.

Burke didn’t start due to flu but in the 20 odd minutes he was on the field he showed what a great team player he is. His vision is his best attribute and he turned the screw on Ballintubber.

While Burke will pick up the headlines, the workrate of Kieran Molloy and Liam Silke was the key to this victory.

Both players never panicked, never stopped running hard at the opposition, both scored and were unflinching in their pursuit of three Connacht titles in a row. The Corofin senior footballers now hold five trophies in their locker as we near the end of 2018 – All Ireland Club, County League winners, All Ireland 7s, County Championship and Connacht Club Championship. They have won all this silverware playing against a variety of different styles and ina multitude ways.

They have delivered emphatically every time.

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