This year’s championship journey has been far from routine for Corofin, but yet again Kevin O’Brien’s side figured out the route to victory as they stretched their advantage at the top of the awards table with a tenth Connacht senior club title.
Tuam Stars and Ballintubber had both rocked the double All-Ireland champions in the last month, but the experience and know-how in the north Galway club ensured their fourth provincial final win in a row.
Playing in their first Connacht senior final, Pearse’s embraced the occasion and they were soundly supported by a huge red and white-clad following from the parishes of Moore, Taughmaconnell and Rural Creagh. And when they emerged in the second half and closed a three-point deficit in the space of ten minutes a huge shock became a possibility.
But in typical fashion, Corofin delivered the executioner’s blow. Liam Silke fired a lead goal for the Galway champions following a 43rd minute flowing move up the left, while points from Michael Farragher and the influential Jason Leonard ended any doubt. It was a ruthless retort to a side that had threatened their provincial and national dominance.
“It was great vision. Jason (Leonard) won the ball in front of us,” said Corofin boss Kevin O’Brien. “Liam actually made the run, stopped, and made it again. Ian (Burke) had the presence in mind to hold the ball. It was a great score.
“Someone said (the semi-final) its the first week in January. It’s a nice problem to have. We will focus on that over the next few days and see how we do our plan but we will take this for what it is.
“It is great to have another Connacht title. We never dreamed of when we won our first in 1991, that we would win four in a row. This is the tenth. A lot of those lads have seven or eight county medals and they are a credit to themselves.
“We just need to bring it to another level, up another notch, that performance is probably not good enough to win the next day.”
Playing against the wind in the first half Corofin were a little sluggish in how they started the game, a trait that O’Brien will be keen to iron out before they face either Clonmel Commercials or Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland semi-final.
It was Pearse’s who took the lead thanks to an Emmett Kelly 45 after three minutes, and despite a Gary Sice missed free Corofin scored the next four points of the game to take charge.
A quick Sice free freed Dylan Wall for the first, Michael Farragher then scored from a tight angle, and two Sice frees had them 0-4 to 0-1 ahead as half-time approached. Sice’s first free came directly from a foul committed by Niall Carty, which earned him a black card in the 18th minute, but he was joined on the sidelines in the 27th minute by Conor Cunningham as the game threatened to boil over.
A Hubert Darcy free kept Pearse’s in touch, but in first-half added time Leonard tapped over from a placed ball to give Corofin a 0-5 to 0-2 interval advantage.
Pearse’s were a different side after the break and two points from Paul Carey boosted their hopes. A Ronan Steede effort was responded to by points from Niall Daly and Ronan Daly to level the game, but only one more points came Pearse’s way after that.
Liam Silke’s goal and some composed football in the closing stages ensured Corofin took the win, while Pearse’s dream of following a first county title with a maiden provincial win is over.
“We went in three points down at half-time and we came out and played some very good football in the first ten or 15 minutes at the start of the second half,” said their manager Pat Flanagan, who saw Niall Daly sent off late on for a second yellow card.
“But we lost our concentration when we had the upper hand we allowed them to come in and score a goal. With their experience, it was always very difficult to go back again at them.
“We had to push on from the situation we found ourselves in and get ahead of them, and who knows what would have happened.”
Scorers for Corofin: J Leonard (0-3, 1f), L Silke (1-0), G Sice (0-2, frees), Michael Farragher (0-2), D Wall, R Steede, C Brady 0-1 (0-1 each).
Scorers for Pádraig Pearses: P Carey (0-3, 2f), H Darcy (0-1f), E Kelly (45), N Daly, R Daly (0-1 each).
COROFIN: B Power; L Silke, K Fitzgerald, C Silke; K Molloy, C Cunningham, D Wall; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, Michael Farragher, J Leonard; M Lundy, Martin Farragher, I Burke.
Subs: D McHugh for Cunningham (28, BC), D Silke for Lundy (44), C Brady for C Silke (44), G Burke for Wall (56), D Canney for Steede (59, blood), C McGrath for Martin Farragher (60), D Hynes for Michael Farragher (60+4).
PÁDRAIG PEARSES: P Whelan; M Richardson, A Butler, S Carty; G Downey, D Murray, R Daly; N Carty, C Daly; L Daly, N Carty, P Carey; E Kelly, H Darcy, C Payne.
Subs: T Butler for N Carty (20, BC), S Fahy for Kelly (53), A Duffy for S Carty (54, BC), S Mulvey for L Daly (60+3), J Kelly for Payne (60+3).
Referee: Eamonn O’Grady (Leitrim).