*Gavin Cooney. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Devastating Gavin Cooney goals at either end of the tie powered Éire Óg through to the quarter-finals as group winners after quenching Corofin’s flame in Cusack Park on Saturday evening.
Éire Óg 3-08
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
A rousing goal in the opening seconds provided a platform that the Ennis side would fully capitalise upon with a second only minutes later through Manus Doherty before Cooney duly finished off Corofin’s spirited fightback with a sucker-punch major coming down the final straight.
All’s well that end’s well though for both parties as along with the defending champions, St Breckan’s and Corofin also advance to the quarter-finals from the group (originally a group of five) while St Joseph’s Miltown are destined for the relegation play-offs.
There was almost an anti-climactic feel to this derby contest that was practically over by the end of the opening quarter following a quickfire blitz of goals from the champions. Indeed, the game was only 15 seconds old when Darren O’Neill’s free was flicked by Gavin Cooney beyond the reaches of advancing goalkeeper Luke Neylon for the opener while a second followed in the ninth minute when Mark McInerney’s shot was saved on the line by Damien O’Loughlin, only for Doherty to convert the rebound.
With McInerney unerring from placed balls, the Townies eased to a 2-5 to 0-1 advantage, a chasm that evidently proved unassailable as despite Corofin responding with three of the last four points of the first half, the lifeline goal they craved never materialised.
Their best opportunity arrived in the 26th minute when Diarmuid Cahill broke through the centre, only for Jarlath Collins to produce a timely block just as he pulled the trigger.
At 2-6 to 0-4 by the break, the only way was up for Corofin as while victory seemed unattainable, score difference was potentially crucial by that juncture as Miltown were ahead of St Breckan’s by the midway mark in Ennistymon.
To their credit, the North Clare side were much sharper in the second period and eventually lowered the arrears to just five thanks to four consecutive points through Gearoid Kelly, Gearoid Cahill, Robin Mounsey and substitute Eoin Davoren.
However, the latter’s score might have been a goal only for his effort to clear the crossbar, a miss that was subsequently punished when a clinical Cooney ghosted in behind Corofin’s last line to collect a Manus Doherty pass and roof to the net at 3-7 to 0-8.
By the hour mark, the Ennis side restored a nine point cushion following another Cooney free but their emptying of the bench coincided with a final injury-time Corofin rally. Realising that their neighbours St Breckan’s had weathered the Miltown storm to confirm their passage to the business end of the senior championship, Corofin finished with the last three points through the Cahill brothers and substitute Eoin Davoren to soften the final margin.
Éire Óg (Group Winners) and St Breckan’s (Group Runners-Up) will be seeded in Monday’s quarter-final draw alongside Group 2 winners Cratloe and their Group 3 equivalents (either Clondegad, Kilmurry Ibrickane or Ennistymon) while only ten months on from regaining their senior status, Corofin can also look forward to a shot at the knock-out stages of the Jack Daly race for the first time in four years.
Scorers for Éire Óg: Gavin Cooney (2-3, 3f); Mark McInerney (0-5, 3f, 1m); Manus Doherty (1-0)
Scorers for Corofin: Diarmuid Cahill (2f), Gearoid Cahill (2f) (0-3 each); Eoin Davoren (0-2); Jamie Malone, Gearoid Kelly, Robin Mounsey (0-1 each)
16: Shane Daniels
2: Manus Doherty
3: Aaron Fitzgerald
17: Jarlath Collins
4: Ronan Lanigan
6: Aidan McGrath
19: Conor O’Halloran
8: Darren O’Neill
9: David McNamara
12: Niall McMahon
11: Ikem Ugwueru
10: Oran Cahill
15: Mark McInerney
14: Gavin Cooney
13: Philip Talty
18: Danny Griffin for McInerney (42)
5: Cathal Darcy for Ugwueru (53)
24: Ultan Shiels for Talty (59, inj)
22: Gavin D’Auria for Cooney (61)
26: Gearoid Collins for J. Collins (64)
1: Luke Neylon
3: Cilléin Mullins
6: Damien O’Loughlin
2: Marc O’Loughlin
5: Cillian McGroary
9: Jamie Malone
12: Fionn Clancy
8: Sean O’Brien
14: Kevin Keane
15: Damien Ryan
11: Gearoid Cahill
10: Gearoid Kelly
13: Diarmuid Cahill
24: Robin Mounsey
22: Killian O’Connor
4: John Rees for Mullins (23, inj)
23: Eoin Davoren for O’Connor (HT)
19: Shay Malone for Ryan (60)
20: Cian Doolin for Mounsey (60)
Referee: Jim Hickey (Cratloe)