Glory bid falls short
Goath Dobhair 1-12 Corofin 2-13
Goath Dobhair flashed like a comet over club football this winter with their stories and their songs and their crushing personal loss of a popular member of their club.
But as winter yields to Spring, reality sets in for them. Their magnificent support will not be travelling en masse to Croke Park for the All-Ireland final on St Patrick's Day as they could never quite get on top of reigning champions Corofin.
Instead, the 2018 champions will face 2017 winners, Dr Croke's of Kerry who ended a fairytale themselves in disposing of Longford's Mullinalaghta.
Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O'Donnell cut a frustrated figure afterwards, stating: "I suppose if we had to analyse that game, we wouldn't be happy with how we played and that's the long and short of it.
"Decision-making, a lot of the kickouts there in the last 10 minutes when you really needed possession of the ball, we wouldn't be happy with that. How good are they? We didn't test them enough in my opinion."
He's right, but up to a point. A team like Corofin are well versed in dictating the terms of battle. They pushed up extremely strong on Christopher Sweeney's kickout and when he was forced to go long, Daithí Burke had the height and physical advantage over Odhrán McNiallais.
Their defenders played three yards in front of Gaoth Dobhair's two man full-forward line of Kevin Cassidy and Eamonn Collum and stationed a sweeper just ahead of them too. It made every Gaoth Dobhair score a total struggle.
After O'Donnell finished detailing the reasons for defeat, he charted just how far this group had come in a short time.
"As I said to the lads, it was like a dream," he said. "From the start you are always waiting for someone to pinch you and tell you to wake up. We are delighted for the parish, delighted for the people and you could see the support, how they reacted and how they got behind us.
"It's so important for that. We had a couple of dark days there and these days do lift everybody. There's an importance in that too as well." The dark days he refers to was the loss of squad member Micheál Roarty, who died in a road traffic accident along with three other local men at the end of January.
The players and management are in grief, and it understandably had to have played a part in delivering a below-par performance.
"I think it did have a big impact on people," said O'Donnell.
"I suppose we wouldn't have known until today how everybody was going to react. But I am not being hard on our players, I just don't feel we performed on the day."
Assisted by the wind in the first half Corofin made the most of the opening period. They might have caught a sight of goal after 12 minutes but multiple Galway hurling full-back Daithí Burke converted a point at the end of the move.
They had the ball in the net four minutes later when Kieran Molloy's shot was saved by Christopher Sweeney and the rebound lashed home by Gary Sice to leave it 1-4 to 0-2.
Two minutes later Gweedore got a huge shot of adrenalin when Eamonn McGee laid off a free to Naoise ÓBaoill, he played in Christopher McFadden who had a total of ten steps before his shot was parried by Corofin goalkeeper Bernard Power - only for Kevin Cassidy to slam home the ball.
Cassidy then won a throw up ball to set up captain Niall Friel for a point and they came to within a point before Corofin's second goal arrived. A brilliant delivery from Sice was fetched beautifully by Ian Burke and he laid off for Martin Farragher to crash to the net, half-time score leaving the All-Ireland champions in front 2-7 to 1-5.
Gaoth Dobhair threatened to close the gap on a number of occasions in the second half, but the ongoing struggles in trying to get the kick-out hurt them greatly.
Whenever they pressed on the Corofin kickout, Bernard Power was able to find the little pockets of space as time ran out for the Donegal men.
The achievements of this team will live long in the memory. The sheer brute strength and passion of Kevin Cassidy. The smothering defending of Odhran McFadden-Ferry, the class oozing out of Odhrán MacNiallais in every game. The McGee brothers.
After the game, Cassidy confirmed he will be back in a few weeks to resume league football at the age of 37.
Maybe we haven't seen the last of them.