The spoils went to Tooreen in MacHale Park on Sunday, but Castlebar Mitchels left the contest with more than just their heads held high after pushing the Blue Devils all the way in the Mayo Senior Hurling Championship final.
Before the game - the three in a row and 30th title chasing east Mayo men were the odds on favourites to win the TJ Tyrell Cup which they did - but the underdogs from the county town didn’t make easy for them.
Castlebar got the first score of the day two minutes in when Andrew Butler sliced the posts with a well taken effort.
Tooreen got their nerves settled with a pointed free from Shane Boland shortly afterwards and the same man edged his side in front for the first time with a neatly taken point from play in the next movement of the action.
Castlebar Mitchels attacking talisman Corey Schaill levelled the game up on the five minute mark with well hit effort and he then exchanged points with Fergal Boland to leave it all square at three apiece ten minutes in.
Shane Boland landed Tooreen’s fourth point of the day just before the quarter of an hour mark from a placed ball and Fergal Boland put two between them after being found by Stephen Coyne.
It had looked over the previous few minutes Paul Hunt’s side were starting to find their rhythm and take control of the game - but they were given a warning shot across the bows 17 minutes in that Mitchels were not going away.
Liam Mullins picked the sliothar up and found James Gallgher inside the cover, the Mitchels full forward took aim for goal but Stephen Lenehan did well to save it and put it out for a 65. The resulting placed ball was driven over the bar by Schaill to leave just one between them.
Both sides took very different approaches to their own puck outs with Tooreen getting the ball back in play quickly while Castlebar took their time in getting their forces in place before Martin Parsons dispatched his restarts.
From a quick restart following Scahill’s 65 Tooreen moved the ball down the field at pace and Fergal Boland made it a two point game once again. Tooreen kept up the pressure and it was 0-8 to 0-4 just before the 20 minute mark thanks points from Sean Kenny and Kenny Feeney.
Castlebar dug in and Scahill pointed a free followed by a fine James Gallagher score and then an excellent pointed snap shot by Andrew Butler to leave his side trailing 0-8 to 0-7 with five minutes to go before the break.
However Tooreen showed their greater experience in rattling off two points through Shane Boland frees before the intermission to go in leading 0-10 to 0-7 at the turn around point.
They kept up that pressure early in the second half and were seven clear as early as the sixth minute with Sean Kenny landing two points and Shane Boland two from frees to lead 0-14 to 0-7 and looking like it was just a matter of seeing out the game from there on in.
Gallagher responded for Mitchels when his half goal chance flew over the bar, but a Sean Kenny point in quick response kept Tooreen well in front. Corey Schaill showed some quick feet on 43 minutes to shake his marker and get a goal bound shot off - but once again Lenehan stood firm in the Tooreen goal to save. The Castlebar number 11 did get a point from a free after the play ended following his effort at goal to put six between the teams.
Sean Regan pushed the gap back out to seven and then Boland and Scahill swapped points quickly after with sub Liam Lavin finishing off a burst of four points to have Tooreen up 0-18 to 0-12 with three minutes of normal time left and the outcome looking to be heading in only one direction.
Andrew Butler dropped over a pointed free for Castlebar just as the game ticked into injury time - but there was still time for another bit of drama to play out. Castlebar dropped a long range free into the danger area and Padraig O’Flynn rose highest to flick it to the net and suddenly there was just two between the teams and still a bit of time left.
All it took was a lucky break our bounce to go Castlebar’s way over the closing seconds and they could have snuck the win - but Tooreen’s defence stood firm and the marched on to claim their 30th Mayo senior hurling title and third on the trot.
Tooreen: Stephen Lenehan; Gary Nolan, Michale Morley, John Cassidy; Conor Henry, Stephen Coyne, David Kenny; Daniel Huane, Conor English; Sean Kenny (0-4, 1f 1 65’ ) , Fergal Boland (0-3 ), Sean Regan (0-1 ); Shane Boland (0-7,5f ), Kenny Feeney (0-1 ), Eoin Delaney. Subs: Cathal Freeman (0-1 ) for Conor English, Liam Lavin (0-1 ) for Eoin Delaney, David Harrison for Kenny Feeney, Ciaran Finn for Daniel Ruane
Castlebar Mitchels: Martin Parson; Seanie Mulroy, James Lowe, Joe Butler; Tony Sweeney, Padraig O’Flynn (1-0 ), Bernard Kennedy; Shane Nugent, Conor Murray; Andrew Butler (0-3, 1f ), Corey Scahill (0-7, 5f, 1 65 ), Kevin Keena; Darren McTigue, James Gallagher (0-3 ), Liam Mullins. Subs: Alan Gavin for Kevin Keena, Art O’Suillebhain for Liam Mullins, Kieran Horan for Joe Butler
Referee: Michael Herr