In the end, Kilcoo had just too many holes to plug against Corofin.
The Ulster champions made Corofin dig as deep as they ever had to, but despite their resilience in taking the contest to extra time, they will have left Croke Park shivering in the January chill and with huge regrets.
Tactically, they made Corofin think, and in the first half Mickey Moran’s team should have had more to show for theirefforts.
From early on, it was looking like a match that Kilcoo were in control of. However, they made poor choices in front of goal and going in at the break, they could’ve been three or four points up, rather than heading for the dressing rooms just at 0-3 to 0-2 in front.
That first half was poor. After nine minutes there were 11 turnovers and no scores — that type of poor — and the edginess in front of goal was having an impact on Corofin as well.
Kevin O’Brien’s Corofin must’ve done a lot of soul-searching at the break, and they came out playing moredirect to take control of the game. Moving into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead with 10 minutes to go looked like it would be enough against 14 men. Dylan Ward’s second yellow was probably correct, although he might not agree with his first.
Corofin showed a type of cynicism that’s not usually associated with them in the closing stages, and it almost cost them.
Usually, that stereotype is labelled at the Ulster team and when Kilcoo kicked three late wides it looked to be over, but match referee Conor Lane just kept playing and playing.
We were left with a ridiculous situation in the 72nd minute when Paul Devlin was standing over a free kick and showed nerves of steel to breing us into extra time.
The fracas in the tunnel — at full time before extra time — actually did Corofin no harm at all, when many thought Kilcoo would’ve been the team then carrying all the momentum at that particular juncture.
You could see the Galway players before extra time looking relaxed, with a couple of their players having a laugh and a joke before Kilcoo re-emerged and Corofin took control of things from then on.
Conor Cunningham’s goal was the final nail in the coffin for Kilcoo, who didn’t kick a ball in extra time and failed to manage a single score in those 24-odd minutes.
We missed a trick giving the match to Lane.
There are enough up-and-coming referees who could’ve taken charge of the final to build up experience and give an injection.
There’s a disenchantment and an inevitability in county football nowadays in among players and supporters,although that in turn willsecure the lifespan of club football and cement its importance.
The condensed club championship is a good thing, and it will benefit the stronger clubs with the bigger panels — and that depth of talent is what got Corofin over the line.
The St Patrick’s Day club finals will soon be forgotten, although this time of year isn’t overly-conducive to playing good football and the GAA were fortunate with decent-enough weather and travelling conditions in the circumstances.
It will be hard for Kilcoo to get back onto this stage again, although they have very good players coming through like Shealan Johnston, Eugene Branagan, and Justin Clarke — and football is religion there.
It sounds almost basic, but the first thing they’ll have to do is get through their domestic championship in Down, where teams will be gunning for them more and more. If they can get out of their own corner, then you’re only three matches away from an All-Ireland semi-final,although provincial football in Ulster can be very tough.
There are a few teams up there who would’ve watched on yesterday and felt they could’ve given Corofin adecent crack too.
Kilcoo have won matches of such a close nature before against more ordinary teams. Corofin are no n’t an ordinary team though, and their winning of three-in-a-row — the first club side to ever manage the feat in either code — shows theircapabilities and they will be known as the best club side to play the game.
No doubt, they’ll be knocking on the door again next year.