AIB Connacht SFC Semi-Final: Corofin 2-15 St. Brigid’s 1-14
The final score reveals that defending champions Corofin are through to another Connacht club final but behind the result is a tale of a monumental championship battle in which St. Brigid’s were very much alive until the dying seconds. When the men from Kiltoom look back on this epic contest they will know that they could have caused one of the upsets of the year as they missed three glorious chances in the final minutes of normal time that would have given them a victory, and a victory that would not have been undeserved.
As it was Daithí Burke, fresh from his exploits with the Galway hurlers (and an All Star) was the man who scored the crucial goal, less than a minute into the second period of extra-time that put daylight between these two heavyweights of Connacht club football. The All Star, on as a sub, was in the right place at the right time and a goal in extra-time was always going to be a match winner in a match as tight as this one.
But credit both sides. They treated the big crowd and the watching TV audience to a thrilling spectacle. Corofin threatened to pull away on a number of occasions but Brigid’s would not go away, and their resilience was a feature of this game. Time after time when they looked down and out they got up off the canvas and started fighting again. Corofin must have been wondering what they had to do to see them off.
Indeed Brigid’s can well argue this week that they could (and should) have won this semi-final. Three times in the final five minutes of play they missed very scoreable frees. Two from Cathal McHugh (from 20 metres) went wide, and another from Senan Kilbride went into the goalkeeper’s hands. In a game like this those misses were crucial.
Padraig Kelly has had a great year in the club championship but on Sunday he produced his finest performance in a Brigid’s shirt. He has an engine like few others and was galloping around Tuam Stadium in extra-time just as hard as he was in the first few minutes. He linked the play brilliantly and kicked three mighty points from play.
Brian Stack had a great first half but his growing reputation meant that Corofin double marked him. He is a star of the future for club and county and he is only going to get better. Cathal McHugh was also excellent. He may have missed a couple of late frees but Brigid’s would not have been in the position they were in without him.
Senan Kilbride also made a huge contribution to Brigid’s’ effort. He played deep in the opening half and controlled possession, spraying around some great passes. He also scored those two late frees to bring Brigid’s to extra-time including a real pressure kick from 35 metres in the 4th minute of injury-time.
Shane Mannion had a great game between the posts. He made a number of fine saves and also kicked a ’45 in the second half. Peter Domican, Niall McInerney and Ian Kilbride were the pick of the defence that was under pressure for much of the game, while sub Davy Cunniffe and Garvan Dolan did some great work as well.
While Brigid’s will be looking at what might have been this week, they have made some improvement in a year. Just 12 months ago they were hammered by Corofin in a game that was over after 20 minutes. Last Sunday they came within a whisker of knocking out the 1/6 favourites. With senior and junior crowns and a bunch of underage titles already in the trophy cabinet, the future is very bright for the 2013 All-Ireland champions.
In the meantime, for the neutrals it was one of the highlights of the year and a tremendous game of football to savour. It was end-to-end stuff and it was incident-packed throughout but played in a great spirit. Corofin will battle with Castlebar for the Connacht title and what a game that should be. For Brigid’s, their pride is certainly restored.