The relentless onwards and upwards march of the Corofin footballers continued unabated yesterday at MacHale Park as they put on an impressive show en route to regaining the Connacht club championship title.
After coming out of Galway again without too much effort, and annihilating Aughawillan of Leitrim in the provincial semi-final, this latest Corofin display fired another warning to the other All-Ireland title contenders.
Ballintubber, who had won plenty of admirers with their swashbuckling attacking play this season, were simply no match for a well-oiled Corofin machine.
The Mayo champions were hassled and harried from pillar to post; locked down up front, overrun around the middle, and left chasing shadows in defence.
Two statistics illuminate the story of the game: Corofin mined 2-12 from open play with eight different players chipping in.
At the other end, only two Ballintubber players troubled the umpires while 1-3 of their tally came in the last quarter.
By that stage the damage had all been done.
Two Corofin goals in a blistering five minute spell just after half-time were the scores that broke Ballintubber’s hearts.
Both came from trademark Corofin moves, the ball being switched from defence to attack at pace, and a precise delivery creating a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity.
On both occasions, the man on the end of the move made no mistake from point-blank range and the die was cast.
Gary Sice tucked away the first goal on 36 minutes before sprinting through five minutes later and supplying the final pass to Ian Burke, who palmed the ball past a helpless Brendan Walsh.
With inspirational points from Kieran Fitzgerald and Ronan Steede proceeding each of the goals, Corofin were now 2-9 to 0-4 ahead and out of sight.
It was no coincidence that Sice and Burke were the goalscorers either, the duo epitomised Corofin’s no-nonsense approach all through.
The signs had been ominous for first-time finalists Ballintubber early on as the Galway men hit the ground running and were 0-7 to 0-3 up approaching half-time.
Livewire corner-forward Ian Burke was on fire, knocking over four superb scores and leading a succession of would-be markers a merry dance.
Galway speedster Micheál Lundy and captain Mike Farragher also hit the target as Corofin settled into their familiar, freeflowing rhythm.
Ballintubber talisman Cillian O’Connor was his side’s only scorer in that opening half, converting three frees and adding a fine effort from play.
But with midfielders Jason Gibbons and Stephen Broderick being eclipsed by Daithi Burke, Ronan Steede et al, the supply line to ‘Tubber’s attack was erratic at best.
The passing and vision of the likes of the Farragher brothers, Mike and Martin, was easy on the eye all afternoon and they played starring roles in much of Corofin’s best work.
So too did Ian Burke, and when the 21 year-old smacked over his fifth point to push the winners 12 points ahead, the issue was beyond all reasonable doubt.
To their credit, Ballintubber battled bravely to the end, with Alan Dillon firing in a brilliant goal in the 45th minute to take the lopsided look off the scoreboard.
A few late frees from Cillian O’Connor and another neat effort from Dillon also helped, but Corofin ran their bench and stayed out of reach to freewheel to a convincing victory.
A black card for Cathal Silke after a hand-trip on Brian Murphy in the 56th minute was only a footnote on a day when Corofin reminded all and sundry that they are back in business.
Ironically, this latest success was masterminded by a Mayo native as Stephen Rochford, an All-Ireland club winner as a player with Crossmolina in 2001, led the North Galway side to their first provincial crown in five years.
Their next assignment is a pre-Christmas expedition to England for an All-Ireland quarter-final date against London champions, Tir Chonaill Gaels, on December 14 at Ruislip.
Presuming they come through that unscathed, Corofin will lock horns with reigning All-Ireland champions St Vincent’s in the New Year.
It is a mouthwatering prospect.
Corofin struck for the two decisive scores of the game during the third quarter, supplying the strike forwards with quality ball and Gary Sice and Ian Burke did the rest.
An impressive display from the winners that yielded 2-12 from open play certainly shortened the journey home for the Corofin supporters. Their attacking play was a joy.
Corofin had only conceded one goal in their six previous championship matches, so it was no surprise it took a superb effort from Alan Dillon to beat goalkeeper Tomás Healy.
By consensus it was a two-horse race for MVP between Corofin’s attacking duo of Sice and Burke. They racked up 2-7 between them, but Burke’s haul of 1-5 from corner-forward completed an impressive day’s work.
Corofin corner-back Cathal Silke was sent for an early shower after a hand-trip on Ballintubber’s Brian Murphy. A good call.
Stephen Rochford got his match-ups right and his tactics spot-on as he nullified Ballintubber’s star men, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor, while his attack prospered at the other end.
Paddy Neilan let the game flow as much as possible, punished backchat by moving the ball forward, and used the black card on the one occasion when he had to. A solid display.
Corofin will have to get their passports in order for a short hop to London for the All-Ireland quarter-final on Sunday, December 14. Ballintubber plan for 2015.
COROFIN: T Healy; L Silke, K Fitzgerald (0-1), C Silke; G Higgins, C McGrath, A Burke; D Burke, R Steede (0-1); G Sice (1-2), Mike Farragher (0-1), G Delaney (0-1); Martin Farragher (0-1), M Lundy (0-1), I Burke (1-5, 1f).
Subs: D Wall for Martin Farragher (48); C Cunningham for C Silke (black card, 56); J Canney for Mike Farragher (60); P Kelly for McGrath (60); M Comer for Steede (60).
BALLINTUBBER: B Walsh; D Larkin C Hallinan, B Murphy; M Kelly, M Plunkett, R O’Connor; J Gibbons, S Broderick; A Plunkett, D O’Connor, D Coleman; A Dillon (1-1), C O’Connor (0-6,5fs), P O’Connor.
Subs: R Geraghty for P O’Connor (34); D Summerville for A Plunkett (39); J Geraghty for Larkin (43); D Geraghty for Broderick (58).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).