Castlebar Mitchels’ manager Pat Holmes is facing into his second county final in three years on Sunday which will also be the club’s third crack at the title in four. The All Ireland u21 winning manager from 2006 was also part of the last team from the county town to taste success in this competition 20 years ago, alongside a number of players with long roots to Sunday’s final, including his opposite number Declan O’Reilly who was a member of the panel and Tom O’Reilly whose two sons will line up in opposite camps come Sunday.
But Holmes is just concentrating on Sunday and nothing more, using a similar mantra to that of the Mayo management team, Sunday is game six of a series he says. “As far as we’re concerned we’re preparing for game six of this competition and it didn’t matter who was in it, we were going to prepare the same way. We’ve done it all year, first round, second round, and on through quarter-final and semi-final. We didn’t play particularly well in the last two games and we are hoping that we’ll play a bit better in game six.” As for going in with the bookies’ favourites tag, it’s something he has no interest in reading anything into. “Favourites is something that I didn’t know about or have any interest in.”
Mitchels made it through the group stages in impressive style seeing off Crossmolina, Davitts, and their opponents on Sunday in impressive style but there is room for improvement from their quarter and semi-final wins, says the 2001 National League winning manager. “Our scoring rate, we didn’t take our chances as well as we did earlier in the championship, that’s stuff we’ve to work on. We’re scoring goals and that’s something we were lucky to have done against Knockmore. You work on every aspect and we work on that side of it, along with point scoring, the defensive you work on every side of the game.”
No thoughts of past defeats
Losing two of the last three finals is something that will not be playing on his or players’ minds in the build up to the game, he said. “Absolutely not, it goes back to the same thing, you prepare to the best of your ability and you try to learn from past experiences, but as far as anything weighing on your mind from it, absolutely not. They are history, all we are concentrating on is Sunday.” There is no different approach to the game at all, but there have been some things learned over the past few years, he says. “No different approach, you prepare the team as you always prepare the team and you do little bits and pieces different, because if you don’t you’ll keep getting the same result.”
Castlebar have blended youth and experience this year, and the conveyer belt of talent from underage success over the years has been a big part of the team’s success so far and will hopefully transfer to a victory on Sunday, Holmes said. “You look at the team that’s playing now and you look at Aidan Walsh, Danny Kirby, James Durcan, Fergal Durcan, Cian Costello, and you know those sort of guys, they have all come through the u21 set up. Last year we didn’t have the access to Danny Kirby or Aidan Walsh because they were travelling. That was a big draw back, but this year we have. Young fellows like James and Patrick Durcan have come and brought a freshness, if people think they haven’t come through, I wouldn’t accept that. It’s a very young team.”
Tough task to beat the blues
Breaffy will pose a very stern test for his team at the weekend and he does not believe that anything can really be read into their beating of Breaffy earlier on in the summer in the championship. “There’s no doubt about that, they have got to next Sunday on merit and they’ve fine footballers there. I was above in Croke Park watching young Irwin and Hall playing exceptionally well for minors in an All Ireland final, and then obviously they have 20 per cent of the county senior starting team. 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.”
And as for getting the upper hand against the Mayo midfield pairing who will be lining out for Breaffy in the final, Holmes is confident in his own selections in that area, even with Barry Moran hoping to return to fitness ahead of the game after a recent injury setback. “They are two formidable players [the O’Shea’s], 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.