St Gall’s 1-15 Corofin 1-11 (aet)
An extra-time thriller at Parnell Park ended with Antrim champions St Gall’s squeezing through to meet Clare’s Kilmurry/Ibrickane in the All-Ireland Club final on St Patrick’s Day.
A superb 1-9 tally from gifted attacker CJ McGourty proved the difference in the end, but Corofin will point to the dismissal of county defender Gary Sice right at the start of extra-time as a key factor in their defeat.
The sides were level at 1-9 each at the end of normal time, and while St Gall’s had had centre back Anthony Healy sent off at the beginning of the final quarter, they were restored to the full complement of 15 for added time.
McGourty converted a couple of early frees, after Kieran Comer had opened the scoring from a Corofin free.
But the Ulster champions struck for a goal in the 14th minute goal, when Kevin McGourty crossed from the left for younger brother CJ to punch home.
Another McGourty brother, Kieran, banged over a superb point following one of many surging runs from deep by wing back Sean Kelly.
Corofin midfielder Greg Higgins was a valuable source of primary possession, but all around him, uncertainty and self-doubt was creeping in, and a series of wrong options and a litany of poor finishing cost the Galway men dearly.
Skipper Comer missed a couple of frees, and the confidence appeared to drain from all around him.
All that changed, however, in the 29th minute, when Alan O’Donovan thumped a free towards the far post, and Comer rose above Colin Brady and Anthony Healy to punch to the net.
St Gall’s led by 1-5 to 1-2 at the break, but were forced onto the back foot by a resurgent Corofin in the third quarter.
Comer rediscovered the range to bring his tally to 1-5 with a couple of well directed frees, but he was his side’s sole scorer until Alan O’Donovan popped over a point in the 42nd minute to narrow the gap to a single point.
Aodhan Gallagher stamped his authority on the midfield sector for the Milltown men, but now it was their turn to display profligacy in front of goal, with a rash of bad wides.
Kelly and Kevin McGourty did hit the target to keep St Gall’s just in front, but they suffered a major setback in the 47th minute when centre back Anthony Healy was sent off on a second yellow card.
Almost immediately, O’Donovan brought the Galway men level from a 45 metre free, but a couple of points from CJ McGourty brought the Ulster men to the brink of victory before a superb Gary Sice leveller in stoppage time sent it to added time, tying it up at 1-9 each.
While St Gall’s were restored to the full complement of 15 men for extra-time, their opponents were almost immediately reduced to 14 when county star Sice received a second yellow.
Corofin switched goalkeeper David Morris to full forward, and he almost proved teir saviour, but his rasping shot just cleared the crossbar.
Meanwhile, the brilliant CJ edged St Gall’s into a 1-11 to 1-10 lead midway through added time, and he hammered another couple of nails into the Corin coffin, before Kelly swept over the insurance point.
Corofin: D Morris (0-1), K McGrath, K Fitzgearld, C Silke, A Burke, D Burke, G Sice (0-1) G Higgins, A Donnellan, M Farragher, J Canney, R Steede, T Goggins, A O’Donovan (0-3, 2f), K Comer (1-6, 0-5 f).
Subs: S Monaghan for Silke, G Delaney for Goggins, K Murphy for Donnellan, J Burke for Farragher, B Power for Monaghan, Donnellan for Murphy
St Gall’s: Ronan Gallagher, P Veronica (0-1), A McClean, C Brady, M Kelly, A Healy, S Kelly (0-2), A Gallagher, S Burke (0-1), Kevin McGourty (0-1), Rory Gallagher, T O’Neill, CJ McGourty (1-9 (0-7f), K Niblock, Kieran McGourty (0-1).
Subs: K Stewart for Rory Gallagher, Simon Kennedy (e-t), M McCrory for Burke, S Burns for O’Neill, C Gallagher for Niblock
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).