*Corofin’s Marc O’Loughlin, Diarmuid Cahill, Gearoid Kelly and Gearoid Cahill celebrate. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
COROFIN were leen and mean as they advanced to a first ever Munster intermediate hurling club final.
Venue: Páirc Finne, Corofin
Home fires needed to burn brightest in order for Corofin to eke out a gritty victory over an obstinate Dromin-Athlacca and advance to a first ever Munster Intermediate Hurling Final in Páirc Finne on Sunday afternoon.
Two years on from achieving a similar feat in the football equivalent, while it was another glorious occasion in Corofin, the weather definitely wasn’t as appetising as squalls of rain ensured that this was a dogfight for long periods.
However, despite seeing a five point first half cushion with the aid of a gale slashed to just the minimum on five occasions, crucially Corofin never allowed the Limerick champions to regain full parity at any stage.
In spite of a heightened tension throughout an inch-tight second period, the hosts admirably never panicked at any stage and would be rewarded for their patience and perseverance with a brilliantly executed clinching goal in the 54th minute when Gearoid Cahill and Kevin Keane combined to tee up Michael Kelly to cut in from the left corner and somehow squeeze his shot to the net at 1-17 to 1-12.
It was the cushion Corofin craved to cling to as while Limerick senior David Reidy with the next two scores, a red card for Mark Fitzpatrick allied to late insurance points from the excellent Gearoid Kelly and Shane O’Brien completed the historic victory.
While the Kelly and Cahill brothers along with James Organ were superb throughout, the lynchpin in Corofin’s success was unquestionably Conor Leen who repeatedly broke Dromin-Athlacca’s hearts by dominating the breaks especially when under the most pressure against the conditions in the second half.
Gearoid Cahill had set the tone with a point after only five seconds of the contest, with James Organ bookending points for Diarmukd Cahill and Mikey Kelly as the home side eased 0-5 to 0-1 clear by only the seventh minute.
Dromin-Athlacca, managed by Broadford’s Ger Hickey, kept in touch mainly through Reidy’s placed balls, only for a further unanswered trio of points through the reliable Gearoid Kelly (3) and Gearoid Cahill powered the Clare champions to an 0-8 to 0-3 advantage by the 22nd minute.
That five point margin largely remained until a late sting in the tail altered the half-time narrative as Corofin appeared to have averted the danger when a David Reidy free ricocheted off the upright into the dangerzone, only for Jack Fitzgibbon to intercept possession and pass to David Breen to fire to the net at 0-11 to 1-6 by the break.
Now backed by the wind and a fresh set of jerseys, Dromin-Athlacca expectedly threw everything at the home side but met resistance each time as Diarmuid Cahill (2) and Gearoid Kelly prevented them from making a full recovery.
The visitors best chance of snatching the whip hand came at the two-thirds mark when David Breen’s teasing cross was spilled by under pressure goalkeeper Liam Corbett, only for Peter McMahon to miss the pull in front of a gaping goal.
A relieved Corofin held firm as on three more occasions, current All-Ireland Senior champion Reidy lessened the arrears to the minimum but each time the hosts answered through Gearoid Kelly.
Michael Kelly’s goal was a perfectly timed shot in the arm to see out the win that catapults them into a Munster Intermediate decider against Cork’s Castlelyons in a fortnight’s time.
Scorers for Corofin: Gearoid Kelly 0-8 (4f); James Organ 0-4; Michael Kelly 1-1; Diarmuid Cahill 0-3; Gearoid Cahill 0-2; Shane O’Brien 0-1
Scorers for Dromin-Athlacca: David Reidy 0-10 (9f); Daniel Scully 0-3; David Breen 1-0; Jack Fitzgibbon 0-2
1: Liam Corbett
4: Damien O’Loughlin
3: Killian O’Connor
2: Marc O’Loughlin
5: Damien Ryan
8: Conor Leen
7: Cillian McGroary
6: Fionn Clancy
9: Gearoid Cahill
17: Kevin Keane
14: James Organ
10: Gearoid Kelly
13: Diarmuid Cahill
11: Mikey Kelly
15: Shane O’Brien
18: Eoin Davoren for McGroary (9-12, Blood Sub)
18: Davoren for Clancy (40)
1: James Kelleher
4: Shane Scully
3: William Dore
2: Mark Fitzpatrick
5: Shane Fitzgibbon
6: Peter Ryan
7: Shane Rabbitt
8: Michael Reidy
9: David Reidy
12: Peter McMahon
11: David Griffin
10: Daniel Scully
13: Sean O’Leary
14: David Breen
15: Jack Fitzgibbon
20: Cian Scully for Ryan (3, inj)
17: David Mullins for O’Leary (51)
Referee: Nicky O’Toole (Waterford)