Ballintubber’s quest for a first-ever Connacht Senior club championship title ended in defeat this afternoon at MacHale Park. While they took the game with confidence to defending champions Corofin in the opening half, they had no answer when the Galway lads turned the screw with increasing effect after the break. Corofin won by 2-10 to 1-9 at the finish, to win their third Connacht title on the spin and their ninth in total.
Ballintubber enjoyed the best of the exchanges in the first half. They opened much the brighter, were on loads of ball and posted a few nice scores to settle them down. A booming point from Cillian O’Connor was their fourth of the afternoon, with just ten minutes played, as they opened a three-point lead on their vaunted opponents.
Corofin probed patiently for openings in the Ballintubber rearguard. Much of this effort, though, saw the ball being played laterally with the defensive shield erected by the hard-working Mayo champions holding up well to the pressure.
A long scoreless spell was ended when Corofin notched their second point of the day. Soon after their captain Mícheál Lundy bagged a goal – gathering the ball near the end-line, turning back in and creating space for himself before lashing it to the net – and so, after all their hard work, Ballintubber found themselves a point in arrears approaching half-time.
They responded admirably, however, to bag 1-1 in quick succession at the other end. Alan Plunkett showed his marker a clean pair of heels to burst clear and shoot over from distance. Then Jamsie Finnerty – in at the start for the injured Stephen O’Malley – underlined once again his goal-poaching pedigree. Played into a one-on-one situation with the Corofin ‘keeper, the youngster showed admirable coolness as he rolled the ball past Bernard Power. It took a deflection off the post before hitting the net, restoring Ballintubber’s three-point lead at the break.
A Gary Sice free for Corofin opened the second half scoring and a point from play by Jason Leonard soon after cut the gap to one. Mike Farragher then hoisted a monstrous effort from almost fifty yards out over the black spot to level the decider up.
Ballintubber’s opening attack of the half ended with a wide from a narrow angle from Damien Coleman. Corofin broke rapidly from the long-range restart, Gary Sice knifing through the middle, with the ball transferred rapidly to half-time substitute Ian Burke who slammed it home.
A Cillian O’Connor free opened Ballintubber’s second half account as they sought to get back on terms. The same player missed a second free soon after from roughly the same distance but in their next attack he was fouled by Kieran Fitzgerald as he sought to break clear. Cillian knocked over the resultant free to cut the gap to one.
Corofin hit back rapidly. An Ian Burke point from play followed by a Gary Sice free pushed the champions three clear once more at the halfway stage of the second half.
Corofin were by now spraying the ball around with increasing confidence as they sought to close out the game. Given the ball in space out on the right wing, the pony-tailed wing-back Kieran Molloy let fly from distance to increase the lead to four. Another Sice free just after lifted Corofin five clear with ten minutes to go.
Cruising at this stage, Corofin retained possession with the confidence of champions. A necklace of languid passes ended with Liam Silke raiding forward from corner back to belt it over.
There was no way for Ballintubber. Points from play by Alan Dillon and Michael Plunkett cut the deficit to four as the game went into injury time. It was, however, too little too late. Corofin won by four at the finish to claim the Shane McGettigan Cup for the third year in a row. Well done to them and commiserations to the Tubbermen.
Defeat was also the lot of Tooreen’s hurlers in yesterday’s Connacht IHC decider. Like Ballintubber today Tooreen, the defending provincial champions, battled hard all afternoon but two red cards proved fatal to their chances against Galway’s Oranmore Maree. Tooreen eventually went under by 1-20 to 1-15 (match report here). Hard luck to them.