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Out-of-sorts Galway champions slump to surprising provincial final defeat

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From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Out-of-sorts Galway champions slump to surprising provincial final defeat Out-of-sorts Galway champions slump to surprising provincial final defeat

ST. BRIGID’S 1-13

COROFIN 2-5

By Kevin Egan at Dr. Hyde Park

IF any of the St. Brigid’s players happened to shout “what do you think of that, Joe Brolly” after the final whistle sounded in Sunday’s Connacht senior club final at Dr. Hyde Park, this reporter didn’t hear it.

But if they had, it wouldn’t have been a massive surprise, since the manner in which the former Derry player has singled out Corofin as the saviours of the sport of gaelic football certainly rankled in parts of South Roscommon.

It’s not that there isn’t respect for the incredible achievements of the five-time All-Ireland winners, since there certainly is. If anything, St. Brigid’s value their Connacht final wins over Corofin all the more, because of the esteem in which they hold their opponents.

But the idea that Corofin are, as Brolly put it, ‘unique’ in their commitment to playing fast, attacking football that’s built around accurate kicking of the ball, and trusting players to execute the skills of the game well and quickly, would rankle in Kiltoom, where they live by a very similar ethos.

Of course, none of this was the fault of anyone living within a 50 mile radius of North Galway, but that didn’t matter, as St. Brigid’s held true to their principles and repeated the result of their first ever Connacht title 17 years ago, when Karol Mann infamous late goal settled a memorable battle between these two clubs.

If that win in 2006 was dramatic, then this victory could only be described as emphatic. There was no subterfuge, no ambush, and no backward step. Jerome Stack sent his troops into battle, marching to their own beat, and they played Corofin as they would have any other opponent, attacking and defending on the front foot from start to finish.

Rather than change their own identity in a bid to take that strength away from the visitors, St. Brigid’s instead backed their own strengths to come up trumps. Rarely has a decision been more spectacularly vindicated.

Some decisions were easy. Gary Sice may have run riot so far this year with his scoring and playmaking, but Brian Stack has taken on many of the best forwards in the country this year, and has yet to come off second best. Sure enough on Sunday, Stack didn’t win the official “Laoch na hImeartha” award on TG4, but he was the critic’s choice in the press box at the end of a game where he didn’t just dominate Sice and force the Corofin talisman into some poor decisions on the ball, but he also weighed in with a number of huge plays going forward.

Likewise, there was no choice but to let Ben O’Carroll try his luck against Liam Silke, since there was no danger of Kevin Johnson deploying anyone other than his leading light against the tenacious talisman in the left corner.

Other calls were not as straightforward. Jack McCabe has been a revelation this year, most recently tearing Ballina Stephenites apart, but the faith that was placed in Pearse Frost was more than justified. McCabe struck two glorious points from very tough positions, but when it came to the ‘red zone’ where he could have done the most damage, Frost won every important contest and greatly limited a player that Corofin have come to rely on.

Pictured: Corofin’s Gavin Burke tries to halt the gallop of St Brigid’s Ben O’Carroll during Sunday’s Connacht Club Senior Football Final at Dr Hyde Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile.

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