Castlebar Mitchels’ main goal at the start of this year was to claim the Moclair Cup for the first time in two decades, a goal they successfully achieved a fortnight ago with a win over Breaffy. But while that success was the one they craved the most, this coming Sunday they have a chance to push their championship ambitions a step further when they take on Corofin in the semi-final of the AIB Connacht Senior Club Championship in Tuam at 2pm.
Mitchels manager Pat Holmes will be bringing his side into a game as underdogs for the first time this year, but he has no doubts that his side will give more than a good account of themselves in the traditional home of Galway football. He told the Mayo Advertiser this week, “When you’re playing in the Connacht championship, they’re all tough games and I suppose you’re not going to get much tougher than Corofin, you only have to look at what the bookies have them as for the game. But it’s our job to go up there on Sunday and do our best and I’ve no fear that we won’t do that.”
Galway champions favourites to progress
The Galway champions and the current Connacht and All Ireland champions St Brigid’s have been earmarked since before the club championships began this summer as the teams to beat in Connacht, with both having real designs on a crack at the All Ireland title on St Patrick’s Day next year. Holmes said, “I suppose it’s been said that they have had their eyes on bigger things than a Galway title which they cantered to this year. They are an experienced side, who have their eyes on big prizes. But we’ve got our eyes firmly on Sunday and doing our stuff.”
Of course this current Corofin side have an added advantage on their side when it came to scouting Mitchels ahead of Sunday, with former Crossmolina All Ireland winner Stephen Rochford on board as joint manager of the team. Rochford will know plenty about Castlebar and what have to offer going into the game as he explained to Ray Silke on page 47 of this weeks Mayo Advertiser.
There was no rest of Mitchels after their win over Breaffy in the Mayo decider a fortnight ago as they were back out in league action last weekend against Ballina, where Holmes rested more than half a dozen of the side which started the Mayo final. But that didn’t stop Mitchels putting on an impressive display and winning in Ballina by a score of 1-19 to 0-12 with man of the match from the county final Tom King chipping in with 1-5 to keep up his good run of form. Neil Lydon kicked five points from play while the wily Kevin Filan kicked three points in the win. Mitchels were also in action in the county u21 A final last Friday night when they were surprisingly beaten by a hungry Bohola Moy Davitts side by a score of 2-9 to 1-8, a game that saw Danny Kirby shown a straight red card ruling him out of Sunday’s game, but Mitchels are prepared for such eventualities according to Holmes, “Danny Kirby is going to be a big loss, it’s unfortunate, he’s a fine footballer, but we have a panel of 31 lads all fighting for a spot in the team and the reason we have a panel is to plan for all eventualities such of this.”
Back in action straight away
Having two big games so soon after the county final and before Sunday’s game was good to have according to Holmes to keep minds focused even if it means a lot of football has been played in recent times by his players according to the All u21 winning manager. “It was good to get back to the football again last week with the league game against Ballina, but we’ve played a lot of football and the lads themselves have had lot this year, we had a number of lads playing in a u21 final on Friday night and again on Sunday in the league, but thankfully we’ve no injury worries going into the game.”
With Corofin being so hotly tipped to win on Sunday, Mitchels will have to take all the chances that come their way on Sunday something that they didn’t do against Breaffy two weeks ago. But they have been working hard on that since, the 2001 national league winning manager told the Mayo Advertiser this week. “We did dominate possession and we created a lot of chances in the county final. The downside is that we didn’t take all the chances that we created, but the positive you have to take is that we created the chances and we’ve been working very hard on improving on them since that game. But you also have to take into consideration the weather conditions that Sunday in MacHale Park.”
Corofin have a team packed full of experienced names like Gary Sice, Kieran Fitzgerald, Kieran Comer, and Damien Burke who will be all expected to put in big performances for the north Galway men on Sunday. But Castlebar even without Kirby, the likes of Barry Moran, Richie Feeney, Neil Douglas, Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney, and Aidan Walsh have more than enough experience and class to take on the Galway men without fear.
Sunday promises to be an intriguing encounter and with Kiltane booking their place in the intermediate final last Sunday, the hopes of a Mayo double in Connacht are still strong.