Corofin outclass Slaughtneil in All-Ireland final
Corofin (Galway) 1-14 Slaughtneil (Derry) 0-7
Corofin from Galway have became the first Connacht side to win two All-Ireland club football titles.
In a disappointingly one-sided decider at a bitterly cold Croke Park they outclassed Slaughtneil in front of an attendance of 29,552. Their ten point winning margin underlined just how superior they were.
Corofin previously won the title in 1998 - six months later Galway went on to win the All-Ireland. Even though this is unlikely to happen next September the win is a big boost for the game in Galway.
Arguably it is an even bigger boost for football itself. Managed by Mayo native Stephen Rochford who won an All-Ireland club medal with Crossmolina in 2001, Corofin play a brand of total football which is all too rarely seen in the modern game.
Ultimately they had too much class for Slaughneil whose brave journey ended in bitter disappointment for themselves and their fans including Republic of Ireland soccer boss, Martin O'Neill.
This was a classical example of class overcoming effort. Corofin were simply too slick in all departments.
They were more economical up front - their six forwards had all scored from play by the 40th minute and they only kicked two wides in the first half.
Full forward Michael Lundy won the Man of the Match award but their midfielders Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede deserve immense credit for nullifying the highly rated Slaughtneil pairing of Pasty Bradley and Paudie McGuigan.
Like two heavyweights sizing each other up in the early stages of a title fight the two sides were cautious in the early exchanges and the football was deliberate and tactical.
The first surprise was the sight on the field of Slaughtneil 'play-maker' Christopher 'Sammy' Bradley who suffered a serious shoulder injury in a clash with Kieran Donaghy in the semi-final. He made his presence felt straight away thumping over a monster free in the second minute.
The Derry champions deployed a blanket defence using just three forwards and playing the experienced Christopher McKaigue as a sweeper. Perhaps the turning point of the contest came as early as the third minute.
Slaughtneil's Paul Bradley found himself face to face with Kieran Fitzgerald as the challengers created a clear cut goal chance. Fitzgerald stood his ground but there was a hint that Greg Higgins knocked Bradley off his stride with a foot block. The referee thought otherwise and the challengers' best chance was gone.
Corofin struggled to make any headway in those early exchanges and it took them eight minutes to register their first score - a Gary Sice point. When McKaigue landed a monster point from under the Cusack Stand a moment later a surprise looked possible. But then Corofin underlined their class and took complete control.
Their dominance stemmed from an unlikely source. Slaughtneil's Patsy Bradley and Paudie McGuigan were highly rated but they were simply overwhelmed by their opponents Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede. Slaughtneil only managed to win two of their 11 first half kick-outs and the Connacht champions used this platform to build a winning lead.
Initially it was Michael Lundy who did the damage hitting three points in a blistering three minute spell midway through the half. But the key first half score arrived 12 minutes from the break.
The move began when Corofin full back Kieran Fitzgerald out-sprinted Paul Bradley and carried the ball along the Cusack Stand side. The ball was slickly passed through a couple of more hands before Gary Sice gave the vital assist to Martin Farragher who found the net.
By the 22nd minute Corofin were 1-6 to 0-2 ahead before Gerard Bradley had Slaughtneil's first score for 25 minutes.
Corofin could have wrapped up the game on the stroke of half time when Gary Delaney put Farragher through but his goal bound shot hit the shoulder of goalkeeper Antoin McMullan and the challengers breathed a sigh of relief. But Corofin were still in the driving seat at the break leading 1-8 to 0-4.
In truth the second half was awful. Corofin knew the title was in the bag and they did enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
While Slaughtneil lacked nothing in effort they were woefully short on ideas up front. They never threatened to score a goal from open play which might have reignited their ambitions.
Furthermore, they continued to have problems winning their own kick out in the third quarter when the competitive aspect of the contest hadn't been totally extinguished.
Both teams emptied their bench in the final quarter but the only drama came right at the death when Cormac Doherty was pulled down in the parallelogram by Corofin goalkeeper Tom Healy. But Doherty drove the resultant penalty right and wide.
It summed up the kind of day the tiny south Derry club had on their debut appearance at Croke Park in an All-Ireland club final.
The day belonged to the men from the West who were still out on the field savouring the occasion half an hour after the final whistle.
Corofin (Galway): T Healy; C McGrath, K Fitzgerald, C Silke, G Higgins, A Burke, L Silke (0-1, 1f,); D Burke, R Steede (0-1); G Sice (0-5, 4f), M Farragher (0-1), G Delaney (0-1); M Farragher (1-0); M Lundy (0-3), I Burke (0-1). Subs: D Wall for M Farragher 49m; J Burke for Steed 55m, M Comer for C Silke 57m; C Cunningham for Higgins 57m, J Canney (0-1) for Ian Burke 58m K Murphy for G Delaney 58m
Slaughtneill (Derry): A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rodgeers, K McKaigue; C Cassidy, C McKaigue (0-1), B McGuigan; P Bradley,P McGuigan; P Kelly (0-1), C Bradley (0-1, 1f), R Bradley; G Bradley (0-3), P Bradley (0-1, 1f), C O'Doherty. Subs: P Cassidy for Kelly; S McGuigan for Ronan Bradley; P Mcneill for Cassidy all 44mins; F McEldowney for C Bradley & P McGuigan both 51m. P Kearney for B McGuigan 56,
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)