Corofin 2-15 St Brigid’s 1-14 (after extra-time)
All-Star hurler Daithi Burke came on as a sub and struck the decisive score to send reigning champions Corofin into their fourth Connacht SFC final in a row, writes John Fallon.
Burke struck early in the second period of the extra-time and a brave St Brigid’s side were just unable to recover after that in an enthralling encounter at Tuam Stadium.
St Brigid’s needed to build a lead when they had the wind in the opening half but they turned around trailing by two points as reigning Connacht champions Corofin finished the half strongly.
St Brigid’s enjoyed a perfect start with early points from Senan Kilbride and Padraig Kelly, but Corofin did not panic and Ian Burke and Gary Sice had them level by the ninth minute.
St Brigid’s, seeking revenge for last year’s 15 point loss to Corofin in the Connacht final, enjoyed a great spell and deservedly opened up a 0-5 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
Cathal McHugh started that surge with another Kilbride free and a second from play by Kelly giving them a deserved lead.
But experienced Corofin never panicked and after Kieran Molloy and Kilbride struck points, the Galway champions produced a superb goal from Ian Burke to tie the match.
They then opened up a 1-5 to 0-6 interval lead when Jason Leonard converted a free and then from play to lead by two with wind advantage to come.
They Corofin pushed that lead out to four in the opening two minutes of the second-half with points from Colin Brady and Leonard.
And when Kilbride pulled back a point for St Brigid’s, Sice tacked on two in a row for Corofin to lead by 1-9 to 0-7 after 37 minutes.
St Brigid’s refused to give up and points from Cathal McHugh and Kilbride gave them hope and when Ian Burke and Michael Farragher responded for Corofin, a tight finish was guaranteed when McHugh found the net after a good move to leave it 1-11 to 1-9 with 13 minutes left.
McHugh cut the gap to a point but after Michael Farragher pointed for Corofin, McHugh missed a couple of frees for St Brigid’s but after cutting the margin to the minimum, Kilbride kept his nerve to land an equaliser five minutes into stoppage time from 35 metres to send the game into extra-time.
Corofin led by 1-15 to 1-14 at the interval in extra-time despite playing against the wind.
Padraig Kelly and Jason Leonard swapped points and then St Brigid’s goalkeeper Shane Mannion and Sice did likewise before midfielder Ronan Steede edged Corofin in front at the break with a superb point from the right.
Just 20 seconds after the restart Burke blasted to the net after being set up by his cousin Ian and that was enough to send them through to the final where they will take on a Castlebar Mitchels side who defeated them in the 2015 decider.
Corofin: I Burke 1-2, J Leonard 0-4 (0-1f), G Sice 0-4 (0-1f), D Burke 1-0, Michael Farragher 0-2, K Molloy 0-1, C Brady 0-1, R Steede 0-1.
St Brigid’s: S Kilbride 0-7 (0-6f), C McHugh 1-3 (0-2f), P Kelly 0-3, S Mannion 0-1 (0-1 45).
Corofin: B Power; K Fitzgerald, C McGrath, L Silke; M Lundy (D McHugh 47), C Cunningham (D Burke 50), K Molloy (B O’Donovan 70); Michael Farragher, R Steede (K Murphy 82); Colin Brady (Ciaran Brady 62), G Sice, J Leonard; D Wall (Colin Brady 77), Martin Farragher (J Burke 59), I Burke.
St Brigid’s: S Mannion; D Sheehy, N McInerney, J Murray (N Grehan 70); R Stack, P Domican, I Kilbride; G Dolan, E Nolan (E Sheehy 49); P Kelly (Nolan 75), D Dolan (D Cunniffe 41), C Murray (D Donnelly 36); B Stack, S Kilbride, C McHugh (J McDonnell 59) (C McHugh 70).
Referee: Eamonn O’Grady (Leitrim).