Simple twist of fate

Declan O’Reilly has swapped red for blue on Sunday

It is just another of the intriguing twists to a game already full of possibilities on Sunday that the Breaffy manager Declan O’Reilly will be in the blue corner after soldiering his way through his own playing days with the Mitchels. Much like on the field on Sunday where two brothers will be lining out on opposite sides, brothers of his own donned the blue of Breaffy after they relocated to Breaffy a few decades ago, while he continued to wear the red of Mitchels of their youth. Declan’s father Séan is another Mitchels stalwart having been chairman of the town team during the 70s, among other roles. But come throw in Sunday, Declan will have both feet firmly in the Breaffy camp as he explained to the Mayo Advertiser this week. “Yeah, it’s unusual, but that’s sport and that’s the way it goes. Breaffy contacted me earlier in the year and they asked me would I take over for the year, and it really was a challenge, and I said it’s a challenge I’m grateful for and I’ll take on. As I said to you before, I know the Mitchels lads well and I’ve nothing but the height of respect for them, and the way they conduct themselves and the way they play football is top class. But I signed up for Breaffy this year and it’s my obligation to see it through, in particular because I asked so much of the Breaffy players.” As for the day and the event, it is something he is chomping at the bit to get into. “It’s a good day for the club, it’s a good day for the players, a county final hasn’t come around before, so we’re looking forward to it immensely.”

Lots of changes since the last meeting

The earlier meeting between the two sides in this year’s championship, has been well chronicled over the past few weeks, and Declan remembers it well. “We had what’s being documented now was that we were well turned over by the Mitchels in the group stage. We had to regroup after maybe 13 days and get over Davitts and get out of the group which was the first goal. We then had a three month lay off between then and the quarter-finals. We worked really hard in that phase when the county lads were away with the seniors and the minors, but the fellows who were around at home, the club players, they really worked their socks off. We got an improvement into them and I could see that there was something developing, and then we got two decent performances into the quarter final and semi-final and that takes us to where we are now.”

When asked if they will be looking back much to that earlier meeting, O’Reilly responded that they would not. “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. We didn’t really get time to analyse it because we had such a quick turnaround for the Davitts game, and if we didn’t win that we were going nowhere. So we concentrated on the Davitts game and we won that and we haven’t looked back.”

Setting goals and hitting targets

Getting to a county final has been a massive achievement for Breaffy, but it was all about ticking off different goals all year, the former Mayo minor manager says. “We set out realistic goals, we wanted to get out of the group and that was the first one, that was really important. That has been done lots of times by Breaffy before, but a lot of the teams came up short [at the quarter-final stage] through different circumstances. The fact they hadn’t got over the quarter-final and into a semi-final, so we really set down that as our aim realistically, could we bridge that gap and in fairness to the fellows, because of the work that they had put in, that was a goal that was achieved. Once you’re in a semi-final or a final you go where it takes you.”

As for where he will see the key battles on the field on Sunday, Declan does not see any area that will not be a key sector win against the town team. “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. We have to be awful strong around the middle, they broke a lot of ball there the last time, we have to pick up breaks and be competitive around the middle, and obviously we have to be very tight around the back. Everywhere right across the board, everybody knows that in a county final no matter who you’re playing you expect that in all positions you have to be going well and in every line you have to perform.”

Even though it is the local derby it does not matter who they face, it’s all about getting a performance on the day concluded O’Reilly. “But as I said, it’s really irrelevant to us who we’re playing in a final, we have to get the most out of ourselves, if we do that then we’re in decent shape of doing something.”

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