There’s a new kid in town.
Youthful exuberance and some sublime skills were on show in Breaffy on Saturday afternoon when Westport put Castlebar Mitchels to the sword and pushed the county town men out of the championship as they laid another marker of intent for the rest of the season with a seven point win.
Mitchels were left short handed before the game with Neil Douglas not fully fit to start to add to their injury list with the likes of Donal Vaughan and Ger McDonagh also out of contention - but this takes nothing away from another big performance from Martin Calvey’s men - who also had Fionn McDonagh not fully fit to start the contest.
Much like their first championship outing it was a third quarter exhibition that put Westport in complete control of this game - leading at one stage by six points after a flurry of top class scores.
Mitchels tormenter-in-chief Mark Moran hit two of those points, his second where he threw a dummy solo that might have as well sent his man into mixers and cherry-pickers in Heneghan’s Plant hire across the road from the pitch one to remember in particular.
But there is still some areas that Wesport will be looking to improve on - in particular the wide count they kicked up in that third quarter when in complete control which left the door open a jar for Mitchels who went in trailing only by four points at the three quarter stage, despite being completely outplayed.
There was no kick in the final quarter from the Mitchels though and Westport tagged on three more points to see out the game at their leisure and look forward to a quarter-final spot as table toppers next weekend.
The first quarter was a tight affair with Mitchels going into the lead through a Callum Kyne mark early doors - the county town men were dominating the kick-out from both ends in this period, but were failing to convert that dominance into field.
Westport hassled and harried Mitchels on the ball an and by the 11th minute were 0-4 to 0-1 to the good with Killian Kilkenny kicking two points and Colm Moran chipping in with a brace. Paddy Durcan drove over a relieving score for Castlebar from distance and Neil Lydon - who was called up to the seniors from the intermediates hit a good point to bring the gap back to a single white flag before the first water brake.
Both sides also had goal chances before the first official stoppage, with first Lee Keegan firing a low effort towards the bottom left corner that Rory Byrne tipped around the post for a 45’ and then James Durcan looking to have a semi-decent call for a penalty when tackled by Paddy O’Malley - but his sides protestations were waved away and Westport went for the drink leading 0-4 to 0-3.
The second quarter was equally as tight on the scoreboard with a brace of Gavin Durcan points for Mitchels and one from Kilkenny leaving the game all tied up at 0-5 each just on the half hour, but injury time scores from Kilkenny and Keegan gave Westport the breathing space their performance deserved at the short whistle.
Mitchels introduced Douglas at the break to try and throw some spark into their stuttering attack, but it was Westport’s attack which really kicked into gear after the restart.
Moran kicked a great score from out on the right hand hand side to get things going, James Durcan did reply for Mitchels not long after - but that was a temporary respite for what was to become an rearguard movement for them over the next ten minutes.
Colm Moran put his side 0-9 to 0-6 clear finishing off an incisive flowing move, Moran slung over his third point of the day after his dummy solo, James Walsh strode up the field to finish off a point and Kilkenny kicked his fifth point of the day to put Westport 0-12 to 0-6 up.
But they did skew a number of efforts wide in this scoring run and could have been further out of sight and they left a chink of light for Mitchels who to their credit they tried to push through and points from Paddy Durcan and Gavin Durcan meant they were only four behind heading into the second water break.
But there was no moving Westport and the managed to shut up shop and see out this game relatively easily with points from Moran, Oisin McLaughlin and Kilkenny the final punctuation points on this win.
Westport move on full of confidence and ready to take the next step, for Castlebar it’s been a learning curve for their new management team - missing out on the quarter-finals was not part of that education and they’ll have a long winter of plotting and planning for next year ahead of them.
Westport: K Kilkenny (0-6, 3f ), C Moran (0-3 ), M Moran (0-3 ), J Walsh (0-1 ), L Keegan (0-1 ), O McLaughlin (0-1 )
Castlebar Mitchels: Gavin Durcan (0-3, 2f ), Patrick Durcan (0-2 ), N Lydon (0-1 ), C Kyne (0-1, 1m ), James Durcan (0-1 )
Westport: P O’Malley; B Doyle, R Brickenden, B McDermott; P Lambert, L Keegan, J Walsh; B O’Malley, E McLaughlin; P Lambert, M Moran, L Tunney; C Moran, K Kilkenny, K Keane. Subs: F McDonagh, O McLaughlin, N McManamon, A Kennedy.
Castlebar Mitchels: R Byrne; D Newcombe, J Lawless, M Dolan; P Durcan, E O’Reilly, S Conlan; D Kirby, C Stenson; C Kyne, J Durcan, G Durcan; E Gibbons, N Lydon, M Towey. Subs: R O’Malley, N Douglas, B Walsh, F Durkan, S Hopkins.