Things have changed

Richie Feeney believes that Mitchels have put in effort to win

Castlebar Mitchels have been going the extra mile this year in their quest to win their first county championship in 20 years, according to Richie Feeney. The team that have lost two of the last three county finals have been working hard to find those extra couple of inches to get themselves over the gain line and back to the promised land, he says. “I think the effort the lads have put in this year, is more effort that they’ve put in, in the last three or four years from what I’ve seen anyway.” Getting players to commit to stay around during the summer when the championship can enter a hiatus and not lot of football is played is another thing that has been a great boost to the cause this year he says. “I suppose the boys decided to stay around, there were a number of lads who went off travelling the last few years and things like that. Two of the boys went, but they came straight back into it and only missed one game and everyone decided to put the shoulder to the wheel and give it a good rattle.”

Working from a good base line

As for getting ready for another crack at the county title, there was no problem in getting everyone to buy back into the cause and go for it again the CBE employee says. “From that point of view there was no problem getting back into, it was disappointing the last few years, but maybe the effort wasn’t there and I’m a believer in you get out what you put in and hopefully that will work for us.”

Having Pat Holmes staying on board in charge of the year this term was another bonus in making sure everyone was committed to the cause, he believes. “We were hoping Pat would stay on this year after getting knocked out early enough last year and we were delighted when he decided to do another year. Shane Conway and Alan Nolan add another twist to it, they all help and add up. If they hadn’t stayed on you’d be taking two steps back really, you’d be doing well to make a county final under new management, but thankfully they stayed on.”

Getting back into the groove of club football after a long year with an ultimately disappointing conclusion to the year was not a problem for the 30-year-old. “I was back training that week after the All Ireland, I suppose the drills and things were different, just getting back and finding your place in the team can be hard when you’re gone so long. Sometimes the lads might forget about you when you’re gone so long, but no it’s right back on track and back into the routine of things.” With the competition for places being tough among the Mitchels it even resulted in Feeney and his Mayo colleague Barry Moran joking about getting their places in the side. “I suppose Aidan Walsh and Danny Kirby have been playing serious stuff all year, Barry [Moran] and myself were joking that we’ll have to start playing in the backs or in goal to get a place in the team, because they are playing so well. Donal Newcombe has been flying in the backs playing a real captain’s role and we seem to have everyone flying.” The battle for places has pushed everyone in the red and yellow corner on this year and Feeney expects to see other lads get the call up to the Mayo set up in the near future. “The likes of James Durcan in corner forward scoring like there’s no tomorrow and all the other lads coming through are knocking on the door and in the next couple of years will be pushing for the county panel too. Competition is very good in the panel and there’s a serious strength and depth there, so training is intense and that brings you on too.”

Neighbours will not give an inch

As for Sunday’s opponents, Feeney knows that nothing will come easy from their near neighbours on the field, even after Castlebar beating Breaffy well in the group stages of the championship. “They beat us in the league earlier on and it’s kind of an even playing field now. We were in a different place in the championship than Breaffy were then, they’ve improved drastically since then, you can’t take anything out of that game to be honest. A lot of the lads would have gone to school together and there’s plenty of relations and cousins and inter-familes even, which will add a bit of spice if it wasn’t there already.” He went on to say that he expects Breaffy to go straight at them and it will not be an easy task to shake them off. “We expect them to come out of the blocks straight away an in your face kind of game, look all we can do is play football and try to do our best. They’ve plenty of good footballers that we’ll have to watch out for too, but we’ll just look to do our stuff.”

Looking for a first medal

For a player whose been such a mainstay of the Mitchels set up for a long time now, Feeney is in the unusual position of still looking for his first county championship medal of any kind, and a win on Sunday would mean the world to him. “It would mean an awful lot, most of the lads on the team would have county medals from underage growing up. But I don’t have any of those unfortunately, I was in a kind of an odd year with Mitchels that we didn’t make too many county finals or win any so it would be my first real county medal. Even with my brother Alan in his year they won, he could have up to 10 or 12 county medals all the way up, but I’ve none of those.” It will not be an easy task on Sunday for Feeney to claim his first county medal, but there’s one thing for sure and that is he will not come up short in effort on the field in his quest for it.

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