Corofin (Galway) 1-14, Slaughtneil (Derry) 0-07
To the strains of The Fields of Athenry, Galway and Connacht champions Corofin celebrated their second Andy Merrigan Cup victory in front of the Hogan Stand as their supporters in the huge 27,752 attendance applauded their success.
The scoreline adequately demonstrates the gulf that separated the sides, Corofin taking control from the 12th minute when ‘player of the match’ Micheál Lundy reeled off three superb points in as many minutes to put the Connacht side 0-04 to 0-02 in front.
Yet, with Christopher Bradley having opened the score with a wonderfully point from a 45m free Slaughtneil seemed to have won a penalty when Paul Bradley collected the ball on a Ronan Devlin cross but was mowed down by Greg Higgins as he was about to drill the ball goalwards.
Inexplicably the referee paid no attention to Slaughtneil’s pleas for a penalty and the opportunity to open up an early four point lead was gone!
However it would be stretching it to suggest this was a major turning point. With the outstanding Daithi Burke and Ronan Steade taking control of the middle third, Slaughtneil getting little or no traction in a sector they would have expected to dominate through Patsy Bradley and Paudie McGuigan, the Corofin attack cut loose with Lundy the conductor.
Such was pressure that Slaughtneil’s usually dominant half-back line had very few opportunities to drive forward against a well drilled Corofin defence.
Midway through the first half Corofin made the breakthrough that really put the game beyond the Emmet’s.
Lundy played in Martin Faragher with a fisted pass and he gave Slaughtneil keeper Antoin McMullan no chance with a rasping shot to the net for 1-04 to 0-04.
The Emmet’s went 15 minutes without scoring, one point their tally from the 9th minute to the half-time whistle, with Corofin taking a commanding 1-08 to 0-03 lead to the break.
Slaughtneil came into this game as underdogs, but the way they underperformed in so many areas was a surprise and their 10-point defeat was a massive disappointment for the Derry and Ulster champions.
“When Corofin got into top gear we didn’t compete with them,” said John Joe Kearney. “We didn’t win the battle at midfield - a very important part of Gaelic football. All the breaks seemed to go their way.
“We got off to a good start; maybe should have had a penalty. If we’d got that you never know how things might have gone but on the balance of the 60 minutes, Corofin were by far the better team today.”
The winners reeled off 1-05 without reply between the 12th and 23rd minutes to take a firm grip on the contest.
Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede secured the lion’s share of possession around midfield, and Lundy displayed his class as a ball-winner and a finisher, one of his points from a loose ball after McMullan had saved superbly from Burke.
Slaughtneil did show the battling spirit for which they are renowned but it was not enough to get them back into the game, Corofin picking off scores at regular intervals.
Gary Sice finished with a five-point haul as the Connacht champions won comfortably, Gerald Bradley top-scoring for Slaughtneil, who were denied a late consolation goal when Cormac O’Doherty blasted his penalty wide.
Corofin: Tom Healy, Ciaran McGrath, Kieran Fitzgerald, Cathal Silke, Greg Higgins, Alan Burke, Liam Sice (0-1), Daithi Burke, Ronan Steede (0-1), Gary Sice (0-5, 4f), Michael Farragher (0-1), Gary Delaney (0-1), Martin Farragher (1-0), Micheál Lundy (0-3), Ian Burke (0-1). (Subs) Dylan Wall for M Farragher 49 mins; Justin Burke for R Steede 55 mins; Michael Comer for C Silke 56 mins; Conor Cunningham for G Higgins 56 mins; Joe Canney (0-1) for I Burke 57 mins; Kevin Murphy for G Delaney, 57 mins
Slaughtneil: Antoin McMullan, Francis McEldowney, Brendan Rodgers, Karl McKaigue, Conan Cassidy, Chrissy McKaigue (0-1), Barry McGuigan, Patsy Bradley, Paudie McGuigan, Padrig Kelly (0-1, 1f), Christopher Bradley (0-1), Ronan Bradley, Gerald Bradley (0-3), Paul Bradley (0-1, 1f), Cormac O’Doherty. (Subs) Paul McNeill for C Cassidy 43 mins; Sé McGuigan for R Bradley 43 mins; Patrick Cassidy for P Kelly 43 mins; Shane Kelly for P McGuigan 50 mins; Fergal McEldowney for C Bradley 50 mins; Peadar Kearney for B McGuigan, 55 mins
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)