The dividing lines are fluid when it comes to the boundary, fluid enough to see two brothers togging out for opposing teams on Sunday, but one thing that is not fluid is the desire of both Castlebar Mitchels and Breaffy to take home the Paddy Moclair Cup with them on Sunday evening. Both of this year’s finalists have got there on merit, one was expected to be still standing here, while the others dusted themselves off after heavy defeat to the other in the group stages and have battled back to show their true worth.
Who will win? The bookies and most of those outside Breaffy will tell you it is Castlebar’s final to win or lose. Their reasoning cannot be faulted, they have made two of the last three finals, only been beaten once in league and championship action this year, and have been the coming team for the past few years. They have gone unbeaten in both league and championship since the first round of the league, where it was Sunday’s opponents who saw them off back in early spring, and have turned over Breaffy already in the group stages of the championship.
However that earlier meeting in the championship is something that neither camp is putting much weight on. Breaffy manager Declan O’Reilly said this week: “No, we won’t, because really on Sunday it’s all about us to be honest, it’s about how we perform and we can get the best out ourselves. In that game they gave us a good hiding simply because they were much, much, better than us on the day.” While Mitchels supremo Pat Holmes said: “They are a fine footballing team, they beat us in the league, we beat them in the championship, and we won that game probably because we got a run on them early that day. I don’t think it was reflective of our strength or on them. I think we’re two very evenly balanced teams and it’ll come down to a bit of luck on Sunday.”
Key battles to be won
There has been a steady build up to the game all week around the area and excitement levels have been building up nicely. But all that will matter is what happens on the field on Sunday afternoon. Where will the game be won? The consensus is that if Breaffy are to claim a historic first title they will have to get to grips with the middle of the park early on and hold sway there for the full 60 minutes. Breaffy’s pairing of Aidan and Seamus O’Shea go into the contest as Mayo’s first choice duo and should have the upper hand here, but Castlebar are not short of their own top class players in this area. Barry Moran and Aidan Walsh look to be their preferred partnership, but with Moran missing the semi-final through injury and Walsh having to limp off with a foot injury in that game against Knockmore, Pat Holmes will be hoping that both have come through this weeks training OK and are fit to play. Holmes has plenty of confidence in whoever he picks for Sunday to be up to the job, as he explained: “They are two formidable players [the O’Sheas], but like whoever is picked to play they will have to step up, but we have good players as well like Barry Moran, Ger McDonagh, Aidan Walsh, and Danny Kirby. For Barry we would be hopeful, but we won’t know until he goes at it.”
O’Reilly knows that his team will have to be on their top game from the off as Mitchels can hurt you from anywhere on the field. When asked where he saw the main threat from Mitchels he said, “They’re all over the place, Mitchels are a running team, they will run the ball from their full back line through their half-back line, we’ll have to have our forwards have an awful high work rate there to stop them.”
Mitchels have been running in goals this year throughout the championship and Breaffy will have to be on their game from the get go. The sticky man marking abilities of Kevin Scahill will be required to keep tabs on Neil Douglas who has hit a rich vein of form this season for the Mitchels. Neil Douglas put in an impressive shift in the semi-final for Castlebar and his physical presence was key to at least one goal, while if Danny Kirby is deployed there it will give Breaffy something else to think about. It will probably fall to David Gavin to pick up the Mitchels big man in the full forward line. Gavin himself looks back to his best recently and his athletic style has impressed a lot of observers.
Getting the match-ups right
Richie Feeney will be key to what Mitchels do in attack and Breaffy’s Micheál Jennings will have to bring his A-game with him to curb the influence of the heartbeat of the town team, a task that Jennings will relish. But Breaffy have plenty of punch in attack themselves with the crafty and experienced duo of Gerry Jennings and Marty McNicholas two men who will not let their side down in any regard on Sunday. But Alan Durcan has been flying in recent months for the blues and will take a lot of watching, as will Liam Irwin, who has continued on his form from the Mayo minors into club action this autumn. Holmes will be confident that in Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney, Donal Newcombe, and Patrick Durcan he has the defenders he needs to curb the Breaffy attack. Of course the game sees Eoghan O’Reilly man the full back spot for Castlebar, and his younger brother Tommy O’Reilly line out in the number 11 shirt for Breaffy, and plenty eyes will be on what happens if these two end up marking each other on the field at any stage. It is going to be a tight one on Sunday, and while Castlebar are favourites Breaffy are not going to give them an inch come throw-in and will not ever doubt for a second they can topple their metropolitan neighbours.
For more of the two managers’ thoughts ahead of the game log on to http://www.advertiser.ie/mayo/section/sport where you will find full length interviews with both men.