Exhilarating total football from Corofin at Croke Park this afternoon saw the trailblazing Galway kingpins complete magical back-to-back All-Ireland club wins - 2-16 to 0-10.
By retaining the Andy Merrigan Cup (their third All-Ireland in five years and fourth in total) in front of an attendance of 17,819, the magnificent Galway and Connacht champions joined an elite band of clubs to have won back-to-back senior All-Irelands - UCD, St Finbarr's and Crossmaglen Rangers (twice) being the only ones to have previously achieved this feat.
Dr Crokes are the second-best club team in the land but they are miles behind Corofin and were like rabbits caught in the headlights, scoring just three times from play, all of those arriving before the break.
The buzzing holders delivered an intoxicating exhibition of flowing, attacking first-half football to lead by seven points at the break, 2-7 to 0-6, with Gary Sice (1-5) and Jason Leonard (1-3) netting under Hill 16 before their dazed opponents were reduced to 14 men, corner back and captain John Payne lined for a straight red-card offence before the short whistle. They continued in a similar vein in the second half to record another landslide All-Ireland win.
Leonard stepped inside Shane Murphy and rolled a left-footed strike to the net in the eighth minute and that goal had the holders ahead by two points at the midway stage in the first half, 1-3 to 0-4.
Corofin's Ciaran McGrath and Micheall Lundy lift the Andy Merrigan Cup. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
Tony Brosnan (free) opened the scoring for the Munster champions but Martin Farragher replied with the first of his four points and Corofin wing back Dylan Wall took a coat of paint off the underside of the Crokes crossbar before Micheal Burns briefly restored the Killarney men’s lead.
Leonard’s three-pointer following a delightful first-time Kieran Molloy footpass had the winners two ahead – a lead they would not relinquish - and Corofin midfielder and Man of the Match Daithi Burke flashed a shot inches over the bar via the fingertips of Murphy in response to Brosnan’s second converted free.
Farragher and Brosnan traded scores as the defending champions led by the minimum with ten minutes left before the break.
The game-changing second Corofin three-pointer was slung to the net by top scorer Gary Sice from close range on 21 minutes at the end of another breath-taking, flowing move, with an exchange of frees following between Sice and Brosnan.
The 2017 champions were reduced to 14 men four minutes from the break when Payne caught Wall on the chin with his flailing studs as both men went to ground; Sice made it double scores as he stroked over his second converted free followed by a lovely left-footed point from play, with fellow goalscorer Leonard closing the first-half scoring.
Sice clipped over his fourth point within moments of the restart and Brosnan pulled one back from a free on 34 minute. Murphy came off his line brilliantly to deny Daithi Burke a third Corofin major and – perhaps influenced by the quality of that save – Leonard was happy enough to take his point when he found himself staring into the whites of the Crokes keeper’s eyeballs seconds later.
Daithi Casey’s free was cancelled out by a delightful Farragher point from a tight angle and veteran full back Kieran Fitzgerald got back onto his goal-line wonderfully to make a crucial clearance under the Hill and deny Crokes substitute Michael Potts a goal that might have thrown them a lifeline.
Sice eased over a free at the start of the fourth quarter and Pat O'Shea's outclassed charges replied from another Casey free following a foul on substitute Colm Cooper. Leonard again took his point to make it double scores once more after 48 minutes – 2-12 to 0-9 – and Farragher speared over another terrific point for the swashbuckling victors, who today cemented their status as one of the all-time greatest club teams.
Mike Farragher and Daithi Burke added to the winning tally in the 55th minute and Fitzgerald could afford to smile broadly as he was sent off on the stroke of full time for a second yellow-card offence after needlessly tangling with Cooper, who slotted the accruing free.
The excellent Molloy registered the point his all-action display merited deep in injury time as Kevin O’Brien’s men secured a victory for the ages, whilst playing a sensational brand of free-flowing, attacking football.
Corofin - B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke; K Molloy (0-1), D McHugh, D Wall; D Burke (0-2), R Steede; G Sice (1-5, 0-3f), M Lundy, J Leonard (1-3); I Burke, Martin Farragher (0-4), Michael Farragher (0-1). Subs: Colin Brady for L Silke, C Cunnigham for D McHugh, G Burke for M Lundy, C McGrath for D Wall, D Canney for G Sice, Ciarán Brady for D Burke.
Dr Crokes - S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; D O’Leary, G White, S Doolan; J Buckley, D Casey (0-3, 2f); M Burns (0-1), G O’Shea, B Looney; D Shaw, K O’Leary, T Brosnan (0-5, 4f). Subs: M Potts for S Doolan, C Cooper (0-1f) for G O’Shea, J Kiely for K O’Leary, A O’Sullivan for D O’Leary, E Brosnan for D Casey, J Lyne for B Looney.
Referee - B Cassidy.Tweet