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Brave Kilcoo just lack that little bit extra as All-Ireland dream crushed

Corofin 1-12 Kilcoo 0-7

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Corofin's Gary Sice blocks a shot from Paul Devlin of Kilcoo

Corofin's Gary Sice blocks a shot from Paul Devlin of Kilcoo

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Tough luck: Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty is consoled by his sons after the All-Ireland Club football title slipped from his grasp

Tough luck: Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty is consoled by his sons after the All-Ireland Club football title slipped from his grasp

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Corofin's Gary Sice blocks a shot from Paul Devlin of Kilcoo

History was made at Croke Park yesterday - but not in the manner in which Kilcoo had planned.

Instead of marking their first appearance by taking delivery of the All-Ireland Club football title, the Down and Ulster champions were forced to play second fiddle to mighty Corofin, who swept majestically to their third successive crown.

On a day when they had hoped the sporting gods might smile on them, Kilcoo were forced to shoulder setbacks that ultimately led to their defeat.

Having shown that they could match their illustrious opponents in most elements of the contest, a red card incurred by Dylan Ward and a mini-collapse in the first half of extra-time contributed to Kilcoo's downfall.

Their unrelenting spirit, willingness to put their bodies on the line and boundless energy were to stand them in good stead but when Corofin brought their vast experience, guile and stamina into play as the match progressed, it became clear that Kilcoo were out of their depth.

That they showed unswerving courage is beyond question but the handicap of having to play without a key player for the greater part of the second half ultimately proved too much.

The game was by no means a classic but it underlined the pressure and stress which teams must deal with at this level.

Corofin were streetwise and methodical for the most part although on other occasions they were rather naive, often surrendering possession rather meekly.

For their part, Kilcoo were always willing to probe for openings but for much of the first half they had 14 players behind the ball as they strove to ensure that Corfin would not steal a march.

In a tedious, often pedestrian first half devoid of real flair or invention, the teams all but cancelled each other out. Yet while Kilcoo enjoyed the greater ration of possession, they were fortunate not to concede two goals in the second and 26th minutes when goalkeeper Martin McCourt's reflexes were tested to the full by shots from Michael Lundy and then Martin Farragher.

Five wides in the 11 minutes suggested that Kilcoo would have to work hard for their scores and that's precisely how things turned out.

It was not until the 15th minute that they got off the mark, and only then through a converted free from Paul Devlin. When he repeated this two minutes later, Kilcoo began to look more comfortable.

Almost incredibly for a team that won the last two All-Ireland Club football titles, Corofin had to wait until the 23rd minute when Ronan Steede swept over a magnificent score from far out on the left wing.

This was followed by McCourt's save from Farragher before Liam Silke put the finishing touch to the best move of the half by firing over the equalising point.

But if Kilcoo had held their own in the first half, it was a rather different story in the opening phase of the second period.

Ward's departure to a second yellow card in the 34th minute clearly impacted on Kilcoo's overall movement and Corofin were not slow to take advantage of the situation.

Gary Sice, one of their most experienced players, potted two points in the 35th and 36th minutes and when Jason Leonard landed another from a free, Corofin were beginning to look comfortable at 0-7 to 0-4.

Indeed, the indications were that they were about to close the game out.

But Kilcoo had other ideas and quickly put them into practice.

Joint skipper Conor Laverty whipped over a point from play and shortly afterwards Daryl Branagan, not for the first time in recent months, popped up with a crucial point that left Corofin clinging to a 0-7 to 0-6 advantage.

Suddenly it was game on again as Kilcoo delved into latent reserves of energy to force Corofin onto the back foot.

And when Paul Devlin landed yet another score to level matters in the 10th minute of injury-time, the nerves were almost tangible.

But that was as good as it got for Kilcoo.

Corofin dusted themselves down and obviously manager Kevin O'Brien had some serious words with them in the dressing room.

The reigning All-Ireland champions found a higher gear and suddenly Kilcoo were floundering as Ronan Steede, Dylan Canney and Liam Silke inflicted mortal wounds on Kilcoo's morale.

But it was Conor Cunningham who inflicted the real killer blow when he stabbed home the only goal of the game to give his side a 1-11 to 0-7 lead at half-time in extra-time.

The second half was a non-event from Kilcoo's perspective - they were held scoreless, but it mattered not.

They gave it everything on a day when fortune did not smile on them.

Belfast Telegraph