COROFIN (Galway) 2-19 - NEMO RANGERS (Cork) 0-10: The ultimate final team? If Dublin right now are that exampla gratis in inter-county football, the Galway men are the equivalent at club level.
And they have been doing it long before the current Dublin outfit. In their three final appearances, they have made their presence felt each time. What’s more, their average winning margin is now 10 points.
Saturday’s comprehensive victory over the most decorated club team in the country was the joint-third largest in All-Ireland Club SFC history. But for Luke Connolly’s late converted free, it would have had a place on its own and not tied with Crossmaglen’s 2-19 to 1-7 replay win over Garrycastle six years ago. For the record, Nemo Rangers retain the record for the most handsome final win - their 18-point triumph over Garrymore in 1982.
The Cork and Munster champions retain those bragging rights but they won’t be singing them too loudly, not after Saturday when they were pulverised into submission before half-time. By the time Michael Farragher finished off an outrageously smooth move for Corofin’s second goal in the 20th minute to put his side 11 points up, Nemo looked dazed and confused.
The breathtaking beauty of that score deserves chronicling: 16 passes were put together in the build-up after Daithí Burke had retrieved a stray kick forward by Tomás Ó Sé. Burke made four passes in the move, supplying Farragher with the through hand-pass to find the net, while Ian Burke, whose looping run had the Nemo defence on their heels, provided three passes.
Neutrals would have purred at the pace and precision of the attack. Manager Kevin O’Brien put it and the cohesiveness of that first half down to years of coaching. “It’s something we try and instil from an early age. Those people that follow us a lot in Galway will see that week-in, week-out in league games. We try to move the ball, give it to the better player and if the long ball is on sometimes we give it but we prefer to give it short and plenty of movement coming off at angles.
“What we believe in, in Corofin, won’t change. How we play the game and the way we conduct ourselves is the thing that will always stand true.”
A team that is built on confidence, Nemo had been rocked earlier when Gary Sice drove low and hard past Micheál Aodh Martin in the seventh minute. “We probably had one or two more goal chances as well in the first half,” said O’Brien, “but we were happy with what we got.”
Coming against a mighty wind, their 2-9 tally to Nemo’s 0-5 was even more remarkable. Some of the scores they took - Dylan Wall’s 14th minute effort and Daithí Burke’s 15 minutes later - were terrific examples of Gaelic football at its best.
And when Martin Farragher added a quick brace of points after the break, any forlorn hope of a Nemo recovery vanished. For Farragher, there was almost a sense of justice after he was wrongly dismissed early against Moorefield in the All-Ireland semi-final and needed to plead his innocence in front of a Central Hearings Committee in Dublin.
While the player himself was complimentary of his colleagues for getting him to a final, O’Brien was keener to praise the forward after sending over six points. “He was outstanding. The sending off was unfortunate but the way he conducted himself and looked after himself after the last number of weeks - we kinda knew the decision was going to be overturned - Martin was very focused and fair play to him for that. I think he kicked six points. He loves this place.”
Nemo manager Larry Kavanagh spoke about the players possibly being distracted, tackling the occasion more so than the game, but his admiration for Corofin was evident. “They weren’t dirty, they played the game. They did suck bodies back. We knew they were going to do that. They were just slicker than us today. I know you lads would like some pearl of wisdom but you could be analysing it all day. They were just the better team on the day, they beat us and we’ll man up to that and we’ll accept it.”
Now only behind Nemo and Crossmaglen in the number of times they’ve lifted the Andy Merrigan Cup, Corofin’s position as a traditional force is secure but it’s the conviction of their March 17 wins that ensures they stand out from the crowd.
As O’Brien remarked: “In ‘98 when we won it, we didn’t think it would another 17 years before we came back again and it was important for this group to win the first but they’re a group that wanted to win two, maybe three titles. They’ve done that now and I think that’s put them up with nice company in third place in the roll of honour.
“That’s great for the club. I think we deserve it with the way we have been going over the last 20 years. It’s hard to get here, you don’t deserve anything but hard work and dedication they’ve certainly done that.
“To come here three times and do that,” O’Brien gushed as he referred to the five-point win over Erins Isle in 1998 and 10-point success against Slaughtneil three years ago, “It’s something we try and do all the time so to do it on the greatest stages is absolutely fantastic.”
Scorers for Corofin:
G Sice (1-4, 0-2 frees); Martin Farragher (0-6); Michael Farragher (1-1); D Wall, D Burke, I Burke (0-2 each); J Leonard, M Lundy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Nemo Rangers:
L Connolly (0-6, 4 frees); P Gumley, P Kerrigan, J. Donovan, C O’Shea (0-1 each).
B Power; C Silke, L Silke, K Fitzgerald; C McGrath (c); D Wall, K Molloy; D Burke, R Steede; M Lundy, Michael Farragher, J Leonard; G Sice, Martin Farragher, I Burke.
Subs for Corofin:
C Cunningham for K. Molloy (46); C Brady for G Sice (49); B O’Donovan for J Leonard, D McHugh for C Silke (both 56); C Brady for D Burke (59); D Canney for Martin Farragher (60+2).
MA Martin; A Cronin, A O’Reilly (c), K O’Donovan; T Ó Sé, S Cronin, K Fulignati; A O’Donovan, J Horgan; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; P Gumley, L Connolly, C Dalton.
Subs for Nemo:
C Horgan for P Gumley, M Dorgan for J Horgan, J Donovan for T Ó Sé (all 39); C Kiely for C. Dalton (48); C O’Shea for K. Fulignati (53).
D Gough (Meath).
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