Having been delayed a week by the weather, St Gall’s and Corofin were inseparable after 60 minutes of football before one of the GAA’s most nonsensical rulings played its part in deciding the outcome.
The rules state that teams who have players sent off in normal time are allowed return to the full complement for any period of extra-time and the Antrim champions were the grateful beneficiaries of that idiocy here.
Their centre-back Anthony Healy had been shown a second yellow card by referee Cormac Reilly after 42 minutes and, though he was not eligible to return, Gall’s were permitted to replace him for the added period.
What really rubbed it in Corofin’s faces was the subplot involving their wing-back Gary Sice who received his first yellow card one minute before the end of normal time and a second three minutes into the overflow.
Thus, while St Gall’s punishment had been wiped from the slate after the 60 minutes, Corofin’s had been carried forward. With Sice gone, the Galway side played the last 17 minutes a man down.
It was to Corofin and their manager Gerry Keane’s credit that they didn’t scream about the injustice of it all.
Indeed, Keane was remarkably sanguine about the misfortune and their defeat.
“If it was our own situation and things were reversed we wouldn’t say a thing about it either. That’s the luck of the draw. It did have a big effect, no doubt whatsoever. It probably did catch up on our lads.”
As Keane said himself, it had been an incredible game, one where the whip hand traded sides before the eventual winners finally began to pull away towards the end of the 20 minutes extra that were added on.
Keane’s main lament was not the red card controversy but his own side’s first-half display, one in which they kicked seven bad wides and coughed up a plethora of possession, some of it deep in their own half.
St Gall’s, for the most part, were jealous in their use of the ball: “We had to play our sevens type of game because they had everyone back at times,” said midfielder Aodhan Gallagher. “It stood to us because we were able to keep the ball and work the openings. That really helped in extra-time when we were able to hold the ball, hold the ball and then exploit the spaces.”
Those tactics served them well in an opening half in which they built up a 1-5 to 0-2 lead but CJ McGourty’s 13th-minute goal was cancelled out by Kieran Comer’s three-pointer on the stroke of half-time.
Both men dominated their respective side’s scoring charts – they finished with a combined tally of 2-15, mostly from frees – and Comer’s goal, though tainted by a suspicion of square ball, was the spark for a Corofin comeback.
Come the second period, the roles had reversed. St Gall’s amassed eight wides in that period whereas Corofin nailed every attempt on target. By full-time, the scales had been balanced – on the scoreboard, at least.
Corofin moved goalkeeper David Morris up front in the extra period and he very nearly found the net with one shot but the extra blue shirt told in the end and St Gall’s reeled off the last three points without reply.
The reward for the Ulster champions is a shot at Clare’s Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the final and the opportunity to atone for their defeat at the same stage to Salthill-Knocknacarra back in 2005/06.
“I had a few tears in my eyes in 2006 and I had a few tears in my eyes again tonight,” said CJ McGourty. “We are going back to Croke Park and it is motivation.
“Kilmurry are a great team. They showed that by beating Portlaoise by (nine) points last week. If we bring our ‘A’ game to the table we think we can beat them.”
Scorers for St Gall’s: C McGourty 1-9 (0-8f), S Kelly 0-2, P Veronica 0-1, S Burke 0-1, Kevin McGourty 0-1, Kieran McGourty 0-1.
Scorers for Corofin: K Comer 1-6 (0-5f), A O’Donovan 0-3 (2f), D Morris 0-1, G Sice 0-1.
ST GALL’S: Ronan Gallagher; A McClean, P Veronica, C Brady; M Kelly, A Healy, S Kelly; A Gallagher, S Burke; Kevin McGourty, Rory Gallagher, T O’Neill; C McGourty, Kieran McGourty, K Niblock.
Subs: K Stewart for Rory Gallagher 30, M McCrory for S Burke 70, S Burns for O’Neill 73, C Gallagher for Niblock 76.
*Simon Kennedy came on as the 15th man in extra-time.
COROFIN: D Morris; K McGrath, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; A Burke, D Burke, G Sice; G Higgins, A Donnellan; M Farragher, J Canney, R Steede; T Goggins, A O’Donovan, K Comer.
Subs: S Monaghan for Silke 30, G Delaney for Goggins 50, K Murphy for Donnellan 55, J Burke for Farragher 60, B Power for Monaghan 70, A Donnellan for Murphy 79.
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).