BALLINTUBBER’S quest for a first Connaught football final win continues as once again they came up short against a Corofin team who bagged their third Connaught title on the bounce, bringing their provincial haul to a record nine in total.
Four points separated the teams at a dry but sunny Elverys MacHale Park this afternoon in a game which finally came to life in the second half ending 2-10 to 1-9 in favour of the Galway men.
Corofin were happy to sit back in the opening half and it must have been a confident Ballintubber team who faced into the second half having played the best football and deservedly leading by 1-5 to 1-2 at the break.
The goals came within minutes of each other and breathed life into a half which was very much defensive, with Ballintubber posting all their soldiers behind the ball and Corofin content to build slowly, if not lethargically, from the back.
A blistering start saw Ballintubber lead by 0-4 to 0-2 after 22 minutes, Cillian O’Connor with two superb efforts from play while Jason Gibbons and Alan Dillon also found the target from play as Gibbons and Diarmuid O’Connor held sway at midfield.
A massive point from Martin Farragher on 23 minutes was to see Corofin score only their second point of the half but then they found the net when a stray ball was retrieved by Michael Lundy who turned inside his man and from a tight angle fired a bullet to the roof of net.
It shot Corofin into the lead for the first time but a point from Alan Plunkett had matters all square and just minutes before the break Jamsie Finnerty saw his low angled shot come off the butt of the post and into the net to lift Ballintubber hearts at the break.
If Corofin didn’t check in for the first half they certainly hit the ground running for the second half with three rapid points inside seven minutes of the restart to tie the game (1-5 apiece).
All-Star Ian Burke was called from the bench and with his first touch he found the net after a long kickout from the Corofin goalkeeper by-passed midfield and found Gary Sice who tore off through the middle of a huge gap in the Ballintubber defence before off-loading to Burke who applied the finish.
It now seemed that Corofin would just go through the motions as they were now back in control of midfield, hitting Ballintubber hard and forcing a number of costly turnovers as the intensity of the game rose a few notches.
But unlike four years ago when Ballintubber capitulated, they battled back to within a point again with Cillian O’Connor on target from two frees and he had a chance to tie the game but saw an effort, which was easier than the two he had scored, drift wide of the posts.
But, in the space of 10 minutes, Corofin showed why they are the kings of Connaught club football and Ireland as they reeled off five unanswered points, including two from frees, but the mark of quality was written all over scores from Ian Burke (fisted point), defenders Liam Silke and my man of the match, Kieran Molly.
With five minutes to go the Galway champions had eased into a 2-10 to 1-7 lead but Ballintubber still refused to roll over and produced two more points from Dillon and Michael Plunkett, but a team like Corofin, with such vast experience, was never going to let their title slip away due to carelessness and they emerged as worthy champions while Ballintubber will hope that this experience will stand to the young players in particular as the search for that elusive Connaught title continues.
Corofin: B. Power, C. Silke, K. Fitzgerald, L. Silke (0-1), K. Molloy (0-1), D. Burke, D. Wall, C. Brady, R. Steede, G. Sice (0-3, 3f), Mike Farragher (0-1), J. Leonard (0-1), Martin Farragher (0-1), C. Brady (0-1), M. Lundy (1-0).
Subs used: D. Silke for Brady (27), I. Burke (1-1) for D. Silke (42), D. McHugh for C. Silke (50), C. Cunningham for Wall (56), D. Canney for C. Brady (59), B. O’Donovan for D. Burke (60).
Ballintubber: B. Walsh, G. Loftus, C. Hallinan, B. Murphy, D. Coleman, M. Plunkett (0-1), R. O’Connor, J. Gibbons (0-1), D. O’Connor, C. Gavin, A. Dillon (0-2), A. Plunkett (0-1), B. Walsh, C. O’Connor (0-4, 2f), J. Finnerty (1-0).
Subs used: M. Kelly for R. O’Connor (47), P. O’Connor for Gavin (52), J. Geraghty for A. Plunkett (56).
Referee: P. Neilan (Roscommon).