Club titles are rarely won easily. Proof of that came at Tuam Stadium this afternoon where Galway’s Corofin eventually got the better of Mayo champions Castlebar Mitchels in the Connacht senior club football final but only after these two provincial heavyweights ended deadlocked at the end of normal time.
Corofin should, in truth, have put this contest to bed without any need for extra-time. Castlebar got the dream start via a goal after just three minutes but two goals at the other end put Corofin into the driving seat at half-time, when they led by four points.
The Galway lads remained to the fore for most of the second half as well, their superior movement and greater fluidity in attack marking them out as the more likely outfit to prevail. But a number of good chances to tack on further scores – at a time when they led by five – were spurned and they were left to rue this profligacy as Mitchels came with a late burst.
Five points without reply in the last ten minutes, the final one a free deep in stoppage time from David Stenson, brought Castlebar level at the end of normal time. With Corofin now shorn of the services of Kieran Fitzgerald, Ciaran McGrath and Michael Lundy, who were all withdrawn from the fray with injuries in normal time, the momentum in the contest seemed to have swung in Mitchels’ favour.
But it was the Galway lads who upped the ante once again in extra-time, three points in the first three minutes putting them back in control of proceedings. They had a chance to wrap things up soon after when Gary Sice was tripped in the square by Eoghan O’Reilly – after a run, mind you, that involved at least nine steps before the foul – but Rory Byrne brilliantly batted away Justin Burke’s spot-kick.
Despite that miss, Corofin never looked in danger of letting the win slip from their grasp for a second time. The football wasn’t overly pretty but Corofin closed it out effectively and won in the end by 2-13 to 1-12.
The win sees Corofin claim top spot in the provincial roll of honour, with eight Connacht titles now to their credit. Roscommon’s Clann na nGael won their seventh provincial crown in 1989, two years before Corofin made the breakthrough in Connacht for the first time but they’ve racked up an impressive record west of the Shannon since then.
Today’s win is Corofin’s third Connacht title in the last four years. With an All-Ireland quarter-final against Fulham Irish to come, followed by a semi-final against either St Loman’s of Westmeath or Kildare’s Moorefield, they’ll now surely be eyeing a right tilt at national honours next spring.
For Castlebar, it’s the end of the road but they can’t really have any complaints about how today’s final panned out. They gave it their all and it just wasn’t enough on the day. Hard luck to them.