Corofin claim historic three-in-a-row after bitter All-Ireland final

It was far from pretty this time but the effectiveness of this Corofin team is now beyond question.

Corofin claim historic three-in-a-row after bitter All-Ireland final


(after extra-time)

It was far from pretty this time but the effectiveness of this Corofin team is now beyond question.

This win, claimed after a bad-blooded affair that needed extra-time to extricate these two from each other's faces, earned a third All-Ireland senior club football title in a row for the winners. They are the first club to claim such a feat in either hurling or in football. Respect.

Add in their ten-point win against Slaughtneil at HQ five years ago and it is now four titles in the last five seasons. That's a remarkable run of form across half-a-decade at any level and it surely puts to bed any doubt as to their claim to be the best club side of all time.

Captain Micheal Lundy said as much after reclaiming the Andy Merrigan Cup.

They have done it every which way. This latest triumph was sealed on the back of no little bite and controversy but the end result is a notable slice of history for a club that has withstood a remarkable assortment of challenges from all sorts of comers.

“In the other finals we went out, we were let play football,” said Corofin manager Kevin O'Brien. “That was the way the other teams set up. Today was probably a bit more defensive. It was hard to get scores out there. Kilcoo are very well drilled and set up.

“They try to hit you on the break. We probably managed that. We went through phases, they went through phases. We were happy in the end to see the full-time whistle. We knew going in that, once we set up after full-time, that our panel would be strong.”

So it proved. Kilcoo didn't even score in extra-time as Corofin made up for a lackadaisical last quarter in normal time when they rested on their haunches, gave a 14-man Kilcoo room to breathe and relied on some cynical fouling to stay in front.

The Galway club's previous two successes had been feasts for the eyes, high-scoring, high-octane football that had resulted in the destructions of Nemo Rangers and Dr Crokes, teams whose own reputations as footballing powerhouses only added weight to Corofin's achievements.

Kilcoo brought none of that big-time heritage but they presented the favourites with a far sterner test. This was a defensive game of chess writ large on the Croke Park turf but one shadowed by an ugly streak that produced eleven yellows, six black cards and and two red cards.

Kilcoo's Dylan Ward earned the first dismissal, shortly after the interval. Corofin's Mike Farragher followed him when the game was deep in injury-time but still in the melting pot. Add in some handbags at half-time and, down the tunnel, at full-time and it made for an unpleasant odour.

The Ulster champions led three points to two after a painfully cagey first-half when both sides had chances to score what would have been key goals. Corofin had put together the better moves, and more of them to boot, but they were never allowed into anything like their full stride.

Kilcoo's problem was that they weren't extricating enough from their impressive start.

“We had the first five attacks and kicked three wides and dropped one short and missed a goal chance as well,” said Kilcoo selector Conleth Gilligan.

“Well, a half-goal chance. If we had taken one of them it would have given us a cushion.

“It started ebbing and flowing after that with us getting a point and them getting a point. I thought we played really well in the first 15 minutes. They had a period of dominance after that and then we came back into it towards half-time. We were reasonably happy with how things were.”

How tough did Kilcoo make it for them?

It took the favourites 24 minutes to get on the scoresheet, courtesy of a Ronan Steede effort. This was chalk to the cheese of their last two deciders here when they racked up totals of 2-16 and 2-19 but they had the patience and the nous to stick with it.

And the bite. Corofin were tough when they had to be and they were prepared to step over the line when the occasion demanded it, not least at the end of normal time when substitute Darragh Silke copped a black card for blatantly pulling down an opponent.

They're not the first side to protect a lead so shamelessly and they won't be the last.

Corofin had finally taken the lead and then stretched it out to three points with 37 minutes of the first 60 played. And still Kiilcoo clung on. After a scoreless stretch at both ends that lasted quarter-of-an-hour, the Ulster champions claimed a pair of scores to leave just the one in it.

Five additional minutes, said the official on the line. Over eleven were played. They were all but up when Paul Devlin sent over the equalising free which necessitated another two periods and it wasn't a score without debate, brought forward as it was by a considerable distance.

The pushing and shoving that followed as both sides departed down the tunnel only added to the edge and the rancour and the nerves but Corofin drained all that ill-feeling and doubt from the evening with an unanswered 1-4 in the first period of extra-time.

Conor Cunningham claimed the goal from a rebound and that was basically that. Not the coronation some expected and many would have wanted but Corofin still go down in history as lords of all they have surveyed in the club game.

Scorers for Corofin: R Steede (0-3); G Sice (0-3f); C Cunningham (1-0); J Leonard (0-2, 1f); C Silke, L Silke, D Wall and D Canney (all 0-1).

Scorers for Kilcoo: P Devlin (0-5, 4f); D Branagan and C Laverty (both 0-1).

COROFIN: B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke; C Brady, K Molloy, D Wall; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, Mike Farragher, J Leonard; I Burke, Martin Farragher, M Lundy.

Subs: C Cunningham for Wall (36); D McHugh for Molloy (48); C McGrath for C Silke and G Burke for Brady (both 58); D Silke for Martin Farragher (65); D Canney for I Burke (68); C McGrath for D Silke (72); C Newell for Lundy (74); K Molloy for Martin Farragher (76); R Mahon for Wall (77).

KILCOO: M McCourt; N McEvoy, Aaron Branagan, D Branagan; E Branagan, R McEvoy, N Branagan; A Morgan, Aidan Branagan; J Johnston, S Johnston, D Ward; R Johnston, P Devlin, C Laverty.

Subs: J Clarke for R Johnston (50); Anthony Morgan for Aidan Branagan (58); F McGreevy for A Morgan (70); P Greenan for D Branagan (77).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).

- Updated at 9pm.

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