Mitchels come through when it counts

Extra-time epic in Hyde Park

Goal King Feeney: Richie Feeney celebrates scoring Castlebar's third goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Goal King Feeney: Richie Feeney celebrates scoring Castlebar's third goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Castlebar Mitchels 3-13

St Brigid's 2-12

Unless you were in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon, to witness all that happened on the field of play over 80 bruising, pulsating and heart stopping minutes, you can't fully appreciate the enormity of what unfolded, on a misty and breezy afternoon in the Roscommon heartland. The one thing that will be recorded in the record books in perpetuity is that Castlebar Mitchels claimed the 2013, Connacht senior club championship. The questionable sendings off, the controversial line-ball decision late in the day, the sight of a injured goalkeeper being carried off the field by his legs and arms like a wounded solider on the field of battle, penalty decisions that were given and not and how long injury time was played at the death. They will all fade into fuzzy memories over time, but Mitchels will always have this title to their name and did they deserve it? without doubt they did.

When their backs were against the wall, they stood up and were counted, never afraid to put their bodies on the line or chickening out of taking on the responsibility of when all was to gain and even more was to lose.

There was an edge to the game and both sides were reduced to 14 men before the end of normal time and Brigid's who it must not be forgotten were the defending All Ireland champions ended up extra-time with only 13 men on the field. But it wasn't the dirtiest game of football, most ardent football followers would have seen all year. Both teams were wholehearted and committed till the very, very end which only came itself at the second time of asking.

Tom King took the official man of the match award and his contribution of six points over the 80 minutes, put him right up there in the reckoning. But he had plenty of other potential winners alongside him in red and yellow. Alan Feeney was monumental in defence all day long and could have quite easily picked up the personal award too. Neil Douglas while he wasn't on top form all day, showed his nerve, by kicking the vital equalising free-kick, along with a penalty and it shouldn't be forgotten that he also stroked over a fine point from play to cut the gap to just one point as normal time ticked into injury time. When the game, could have slipped away from his team, he stepped up to the plate in the final play of contest to tie it all up again.

But much like their semi-final win against Corofin, it looked like it Castlebar may have left themselves to much to do at the break, when they went in trailing by 1-6 to 1-1. St Brigid's hit the ground running right from the off and Senan Kilbride kicked them into an early lead after only 20 seconds. Cathal McHugh doubled that advantage almost straight away after, when Brigid's won the Castlebar Mitchels kick out and worked the ball up to the full forward line and their number 15 directed it between the posts. It went from bad to worse for the Mayo champions seven minutes in when the team in green and red scored the first goal of the day. A long hopeful free was pumped into the Mitchels danger area and goalkeeper Ciaran Naughton looked to have time and space to win the ball cleanly. But uncharacteristically he spilled the slippery ball and it was worked through Frankie Dolan back to Senan Kilbride who fired it to the back of the net from close range.

Mitchels got their first score of the day a minute later, when Tom King slotted over his first point of the afternoon from a free after Richie Feeney was fouled close in. Naughton was again in the middle of the action not long after when he pulled off a good save to deny Cathal McHugh a goal and the resulting 45' was driven over the bar by Frankie Dolan with a bit to spare.

Castlebar shortly afterwards came close to getting a goal of their own, with Alan Feeney driving down the field, before laying the ball off to Tom King who in turn fed Danny Kirby, he spotted Neil Douglas unmarked behind the Brigid's cover, but Douglas pulled his effort across the face of the goal and wide. With nine minutes left in the half, Kirby didn't pass on the opportunity to one of his colleagues when he got sight of goal and lashed the ball to the back of the net following a powerful run. That goal looked to kick Brigid's back into life as the reeled off three more points before the break, with Castlebar failing to add to their tally and send the Roscommon champions in leading by 1-6 to 1-1 at the turn around.

While Pat Holmes said after the game that there was nothing special said in the dressing room at half-time, there must have been some serious words of wisdom imparted by him and his management team of Shane Conway and Alan Nolan, because ten minutes into the second half they had turned around a five point deficit into a three point advantage, while they also had to deal with loosing one of the lynchpins of their team after Barry Moran was controversially sent to the line by referee Marty Duffy seven minutes into the half.

Tom King really came into his own in these opening ten minutes kicking three points on the bounce inside the first four minutes of the half. His first was a neat effort from play out on the left hand side, followed by a tricky free and then another free after Shane Curran had charged from his area to punch the ball clear and in the process of that cleared out a few Mitchels attackers before the ball had arrived in. Aidan Walsh then came close to getting Castlebar's second goal, but Curran pulled off a fine save. Not long after that, the first big controversial call of the day came when Barry Moran was shown a straight red card after he tangled with Karl Mannion in what looked nothing like a red card offense. But Mitchels took this blow on the chin and upped their work rate even more. Neil Lydon pointed from close range, then Neil Douglas hammered home a expertly taken penalty. Douglas who had missed one in their county final win, showed no sign of nerves as he sent Curran the wrong way and the ball high into the top right hand corner of the net. The spot kick came about after Alan Feeney and Tom King engaged in a quick hand passing routine, with one reverse pass by King a beauty before Feeney fed him back the ball and he was upended as he attempted to launch a shot on goal. King kicked another point quickly after Douglas' penalty and Mitchels were three points clear and in command.

Two minutes later Brigid's got their first score of the half, when Danny Kirby kicked an erratic pass from a free in the middle of the park right into the hands of a Brigid's player, which was worked into the hands of Adrian Glennon who converted the chance. But Mitchels came straight back at the All Ireland champions and they pillaged their third goal of the game. King was once again involved and he picked the ball up on the end line, waited a second and fisted a hanging pass in between the two lines of the Brigid's defence protecting their goal. Richie Feeney arrived at pace and flicked the ball to the back of the net and sent the Castlebar faithful into delirium.

Brigid's didn't win the All Ireland on St Patrick's day, without showing fight and drive and they responded to Mitchels third goal the way that champion teams do, when it's put up to them. Frankie Dolan kicked a free, following a questionable call by Duffy close in front of the Mitchels goal. Niall Grehan came up form the back to flick the ball over the bar after Naughton failed to clear a ball he came to get and Senan Kilbride kicked another point to close the gap to two points and there was still ten minutes left on the clock. The Roscommon men, knew they had to land a serious blow to rattle Mitchels and get themselves back into the game and they landed that blow in the 52nd minute. Ian Kilbride drove at the heart of the Castlebar defence and he spotted Richie Blaine on his outside shoulder. Blaine picked up the ball at speed and found himself baring down on Naughton and drove the ball low past the Castlebar custodian and his side back into the lead. Mitchels were groggy and a little at sea after that strike. Frankie Dolan thought he had administered the killer blow when he hit a sweet shot from distance over the bar with four minutes left on the clock. Dolan even turned to the crowd with his hand in the air, before the ball had even cleared the black spot over Naugton's head. But Mitchels weren't ready to buckle just yet. Douglas crept an effort just inside the near post to put the minimum between the sides and four minutes into injury time, a ball into Tom King saw Ian Kilbride take man before the ball and King was left crumpled on the ground and easy looking free there for the taking for Mitchels. Kilbride was given his marching orders from the field as Douglas stepped up and slotted the ball over the bar, with his first effort from a free for the whole afternoon and the game was heading to extra time.

Both sides were restored to 15 men each for the two ten minute halves, but almost immediately Brigid's were back down to 14 after Darragh Donnelly was sent to the line a few seconds after nearly putting the ball in the back of the Mitchels net. Both sides only managed to add on one score each in the first period of extra time. But come the final ten minutes there was only one side in the contest as James Durcan who was introduced from the bench kicked the opening and closing points of the half with Cian Costello and Danny Kirby also getting in on the scoring action. With Mitchels leading by three points and time almost up, Brigid's launched one last hopeful punt into the Mitchels area and there looked to a good shout for a penalty to the Roscommon men, but Marty Duffy didn't give the call their way. In the few seconds following this call, Brigid's were reduced to 13 men when Richie Blaine was sent to the line by Duffy and Mitchels went up the field and Durcan scored the insurance score to send Castlebar into the All Ireland semi-final for the first time in 20 years.

Scorers:

Castlebar Mitchels: T King (0-6, 3f ), N Douglas (1-2, 1 pen, 1f ), D Kirby (1-1 ), R Feeney (1-0 ),J Durcan (0-2 ), N Lydon (0-1 ), C Costello (0-1 )

St Brigid's: S Kilbride (1-3, 2f ), F Dolan (0-5, 3f, 1 45' ), R Blaine (1-0 ), C McHugh (0-1 ), I Kilbride (0-1 ), A Glesson (0-1 ), N Grehan (0-1 )

Castlebar Mitchels: C Naughton; A Feeney; T Cunniffe, D Newcombe; P Durcan, E O'Reilly, R O'Malley; A Walsh, B Moran; G McDonagh, T King, N Douglas; N Lydon, R Feeney, D Kirby. Subs: (Normal time ) F Durkan for G McDonagh (54 ), S Hopkins for A Walsh (57 ) (Extra time ) D Joyce (15th man for ET ), J Durcan for R O'Malley (HT ), C Costello for N Lydon (16 ), A Walsh for E O'Reilly (19 )

St Brigid's: S Curran; R Stack, D Donnelly, J Murray; N McIlenerney, G Cunniffe, N Grehan; K Mannion, G Ahern; I Kilbride, G Dolan, P Kelly; F Dolan, S Kilbride, C McHugh. Subs: (Normal time ) A Gleeson for C McHugh (29 ), R Blaine for G Dolan (HT ), D Dolan for N McInerney (50 ), D O'Connor for P Kelly (58 ) (Extra time ) R Kelly (15th man for ET ), P Kelly for N Grehan (5 ), M O'Carroll for K Mannion (8 ), S Mannion for S Curran (14 )

Ref: Marty Duffy (Sligo )

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