Ballintubber 1-09 Corofin 2-10
More history was made by reigning All-Ireland club champions Corofin this afternoon as they powered their way to a third successive provincial championship title at MacHale Park, Castlebar.
The Galway representatives came from three points down at the break to blitz Ballintubber in the second half, outscoring the Mayo champions by 1-08 to 0-04 to run out convincing winners in the end.
The introduction of All Star forward Ian Burke early in the second half proved pivotal as the fleet-footed attacker goaled with his first touch and also fisted a smart point.
Burke had been unable to start the game due to a slight rib injury and a bout of flu, but he made a telling impact as Corofin started to hit their stride in the third quarter.
His 39th minute goal came after goalkeeper Bernard Power drove a kick-out right over the Ballintubber cover, and playmaker Gary Sice delivered the decisive pass that was tucked away by his alert team-mate.
Ballintubber had no answer to Corofin’s pace and power in the second period as the West Mayo side saw their half-time lead of 1-5 to 1-2 quickly wiped out.
Quickfire points from Gary Sice (free), Jason Leonard and Mike Farragher had Corofin on level terms just seven minutes after the restart as the tide started to turn.
Burke then struck for the all-important goal before Ballintubber managed to stop the rot through a couple of Cillian O’Connor frees that left things finely balanced midway through the half.
However, Corofin had built up a head of steam by that stage and a string of points from Ian Burke, Gary Sice (two frees), Kieran Molloy and Liam Silke put some clear daylight between the sides.
Late scores from Alan Dillon and Michael Plunkett came too late to deny Corofin a fourth provincial title in five seasons.
It had been a very different story at half-time as Ballintubber led at that stage by 1-05 to 1-02 thanks to Jamesie Finnerty’s goal in the 28th minute.
The All-Ireland club champions found it extremely difficult to break down Ballintubber’s well-organised defensive system in that opening half.
However, Corofin captain Micheál Lundy did manage to produce a moment of magic in the 25th minute when he netted from close range.
That score propelled Corofin ahead for the first time, but Ballintubber drew level shortly afterwards when Alan Plunkett clipped a neat equaliser before Finnerty’s goal blew the game wide open.
It was no more than Ballintubber deserved as they came flying out of the blocks to lead by 0-4 to 0-1 after only ten minutes.
All Corofin could manage in response was a sixth minute point from Colin Brady — which turned out to be their only score in the opening 20 minutes as Ballintubber kept them at bay.
But all changed in the second half as Corofin got to work and showed just why they have become the undisputed team to beat in both Galway and Connacht in recent years.
They will now meet the winners of next Sunday’s Ulster club final between Gaoth Dobháir of Donegal and Monaghan’s Scotstown in the All-Ireland semi-final in the New Year.
Corofin: B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke (0-01); K Molloy (0-01), D Burke, D Wall; Ciaran Brady, R Steede; G Sice (0-03, 0-03fs), Mike Farragher (0-01), J Leonard (0-01); Martin Farragher (0-01), Colin Brady (0-01), M Lundy (1-00).
Subs: D Silke for Ciaran Brady (inj, 28); I Burke (1-01) for D Silke (37); D McHugh for C Silke (50); C Cunningham for Wall (56); D Canney for Colin Brady.
Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, C Hallinan, B Murphy; D Coleman, M Plunkett, R O’Connor; J Gibbons, D O’Connor; C Gavin, A Dillon, A Plunkett; B Walsh, C O’Connor, J Finnerty.
Subs: M Kelly for R O’Connor (47), P O’Connor for C Gavin (53), J Geraghty for A Plunkett (57)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)