Corofin coasted to a third All-Ireland crown in five years, the current kingpins of club football totally outclassing a frustrated Dr Crokes side.
Having had 15 points to spare over Nemo Rangers in last year’s decider, Corofin very nearly matched that margin of victory here, finishing 12 clear of 14-men Crokes.
Throw in their 2015 triumph and not since Crossmaglen won three between 1997-2000 has a club enjoyed such dominance. This afternoon's win was Corofin's fourth Andy Merrigan Cup, putting them third in the overall roll of honour.
Although unthinkable before throw-in, there was a strong sense at half-time that this game was already over as a contest. Corofin, who enjoyed the majority of possession and had left the Crokes defence scrambling each time they ran at the opposition, were 2-7 to 0-6 ahead. Almost more important than the scoreboard, though, was that Crokes had been reduced to 14 men, not so much limiting as extinguishing any chance of a second-half comeback from the Kerry and Munster champions.
The red card in question was shown four minutes before the break, Crokes captain John Payne dismissed for kicking out at Corofin’s Dylan Wall. The latter had initially knocked Payne to the ground with a high challenge and the Crokes skipper didn’t react kindly to the tackle, lashing out with the boot.
No question but the end margin would have been smaller had Crokes held onto their full complement of players, but to suggest that Payne’s sending off was the difference would be inaccurate and unfair on Corofin as they were already punching holes in the opposition defence prior to the red card.
Corofin didn’t hang about in capitalising on their numerical advantage, a brace from Gary Sice and Jason Leonard’s first point of the final stretching their lead out to seven at the break.
It was Sice and Leonard who supplied Corofin’s first-half goals, the former palming to the net on eight minutes after a soccer-style pass from the excellent Kieran Molloy. That early goal had the Galwaymen 1-1 to 0-2 ahead and although it wasn’t yet evident on the scoreboard, their direct running and intricate handpassing were troubling a Crokes side that hadn’t received a proper and sustained examination since the closing rounds of the Kerry county championship. That told here.
Half-back Molloy, along with their midfield pairing of Burke and Steede, poured forward at every opportunity, providing additional outlets when Crokes were forced to pull bodies back.
A pair of white flags from Brosnan and one from Daithí Casey had Crokes trailing by just the minimum after 17 minutes, but between there and Barry Cassidy’s whistle for half-time, they were outscored by 1-4 to 0-1.
The second Corofin goal, which arrived on 22 minutes, was a piece of beauty, a string of handpasses involving Martin Farragher, Daithí Burke, and his namesake Ian, ending with Sice palming the ball past Murphy.
The second-half was a drab affair. Crokes had one sustained period of pressure early in the second period, but with Brian Looney and David Shaw shooting wide, all they had to show for this spell was a Daithí Casey free. Not even the introduction of Colm Cooper could rouse them into landing the necessary scores to significantly eat into Corofin’s lead.
Pat O’Shea’s charges, rather tellingly, managed only three points from play over the hour and did not score from play in the second period.
At the other end, Daithí Burke, Gary Sice, Jason Leonard and Martin Farragher swelled their personal tallies as the game wound down to its inevitable conclusion. Not even the late dismissal of full-back Kieran Fitzgerald for a second yellow card offence could dampen Corofin’s unbridled joy at the finish.
Scorers for Corofin: G Sice (1-5, 0-3 frees); J Leonard (1-3); Martin Farragher (0-4); D Burke (0-2); Mike Farragher, K Molloy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dr Crokes: T Brosnan (0-5, 0-4 frees); D Casey (0-3, 0-2 frees); C Cooper (0-1 free), M Burns (0-1 each).
Corofin: B Power; D McHugh, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; L Silke, D Wall, K Molloy; D Burke, R Steede; M Lundy, J Leonard, Mike Farragher; G Sice, Martin Farragher, I Burke.
Subs: Colin Brady for L Silke (HT); C Cunningham for McHugh (48); G Burke for Lundy (53); C McGrath for Wall (55); D Canney for Sice (57); Ciaran Brady for D Burke (58).
Dr Crokes: S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O’Leary, G White, S Doolan; J Buckley, D Casey; M Burns, G O’Shea, B Looney; T Brosnan, K O’Leary, D Shaw.
Subs: M Potts for Doolan (HT); C Cooper for O’Shea (37); J Kiely for K O’Leary (40); A O’Sullivan for D O’Leary (46); E Brosnan for Casey (53); J Lyne for Looney (57).
Subs: B Cassidy (Derry).